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The morning alarm woke up Ghen. With an annoyed sigh, he stretched out his arm and silenced the foul-sounding chirps. Slowly sitting up in bed, he let out a deep yawn and got to his feet. Running a couple of chitinous fingers along his antennae to stimulate them to life, he made his bed and then went to his closet. Today was a work day, so he needed his suit. Once the pants were on, he stretched out his wings so that he could button up the shirt, then relaxing them once all the buttons were secured. Dressing for the day was done, now for the morning meal. Entering his kitchen, he took out the chilled leftovers of the evening meal last night and popped it into the radiator, first defrosting and then slightly cooking it. During that process, he also fished out a ceramic cup and placed it in his brewer, serving himself some synthesized caffeine. His idle thought led him to being amused that, when eaten directly off a plant, it has a concentration that could kill him three times over. But after going through some refinement and roasting, all it does is make him hyper. Once the meal was put together, his plate of heated leftovers and a cup of almost-piping-hot cup of Xia's, he took his time to enjoy it. His communicator vibrated. When he looked, he found it was from his boss. "Hello?" Ghen answered. "Ghen, the meeting's been moved up to a few minutes from now." His boss, Xkik, announced. "Apparently higher up has something important they want to say. We have a terminal ready for you, I'll message the login details." "Wha-, what's so important?" Ghen asked in bewilderment. "Did a water line rupture or something?" "No, nothing like that." Xkik replied with a slight chuckle. "It's actually about the rumors we've been hearing. That human corporation wanting to acquire us? That's what they're talking about." Ghen could feel everything inside his thorax drop to the floor. "That must mean it's true then, right? Did we get sold off by the Queen to this company then?" "Show up to the meeting and you'll get your answer." Xkik said simply. When he finished, Ghen got the notification on his communicator. There's the login details, allowing him to remotely attend the meeting. "They're about to start, hurry up." Once Xkik disconnected, Ghen worked fast to login and set up the remote viewing. Once everything was done, his screen started transmitting the meeting room. It was already packed. And off by the main board, he saw his answer. There was a human, resting against the wall on his two legs. Standing right in the center of everyone's view was the coordinator, Tizx, watching the clock periodically. As soon as the meeting's start time was reached, the coordinator began. "Alright everyone. I realize that this was rather short notice, so I want to say how appreciative I am that you made it. Now then, let's just get right to it. For some time now, many of you have been hearing rumors that a human corporation has been interested in us. Why? We never really knew. We're just an organization responsible for finding, extracting and providing water to the colony here all under the direction of the Queen herself. Well, as of now, I have the answer for you. Why don't I let Ryan say that?" Stepping back, Tizx motioned for the human, Ryan, to take over. With a nod, Ryan practically bounced over and then took the position. "Good morning to you all. I hope my Zazk is passable, heh. Anyways, the answer to those rumors, is yes. Terran Galactic Company is indeed interested in you all. Which now leads to me. I'm here to announce that, effective yesterday evening, this water company is now a subsidiary of Terran Galactic Company, under the name of Zilia Water Delivery." Many other sub-coordinators broke into hushed conversation, no doubt speaking their thoughts with each other about this move. Ghen could only wonder if this was even a good thing. What will the humans do? Will he still have his job? Will he have to learn how to deal with the ruthless humans? "Now, I am well aware this is quite the...uh, change." Ryan continued. "That's why I'm happy to inform you that, no, nothing negative or detrimental will happen to you. You just have new people to answer to. Operations will continue as normal, everybody here will still keep their jobs. The only real change any of you will personally experience is that Coordinator Tizx here will now report to someone else. On behalf of the Terran Galactic Company, we are extremely excited and are looking forward to working with you all. Thank you for your time." A week later. At least Ryan wasn't lying. After the initial shock wore off, things went back as they normally did. There were no terminations, no reductions in annual pay or anything. Nothing really changed. At least until this new meeting was called. Ghen was at the worksite this time, so he took his seat and watched as, once again, Ryan led the meeting. "Hello again, everyone!" He said cheerfully, his Zazk noticeably improved. "I hope I didn't end up looking like a liar, right? Everything's still normal, all that?" All the zazk in the room confirmed, providing comments to their pleasant surprise as well as lingering thoughts. "Awesome! Awesome." Ryan said jubilantly, his fleshy mouth revealing his bone-white teeth. "Now then, you're probably wondering why I'm here again, right? Well, I got another fantastic piece of news for you all! Two, actually. I'll start with the first: Zilia Water Delivery has just completed its IPO. The company is now publicly traded!" Ghen and the others voiced their confusion, having no idea what in the name of the Queen Ryan was talking about. What was Ryan talking about? What's an IPO? And why exactly is being publicly traded such a significant thing? "Oh, you guys don't know any of that?" Ryan asked in surprised confusion. After everybody confirmed, he let out a quick huff as he began his explanation. "Well, to begin, IPO is short for Initial Public Offering. Basically what that means is that, before today, Zilia was privately held. Only certain individuals could buy and sell shares here. But now that we're public? Literally anyone can buy and sell shares in the company, hence us being publicly traded." "Uh, what's a share?" Ghen asked, still completely lost. "Oh, boy..." Ryan muttered under his breath before returning to his peppy image. "To simply put it, a share is short for having a share of ownership in a company. When you buy a share, you're buying a piece of ownership, and when you sell, you're selling that amount." "So wait...if someone buys a share, they're a co-owner then?" One of the other team coordinators asked. "If they get enough, yeah." Ryan nodded. "You need a lot though, and that really depends on the company. If I had to give an answer though? I'd say usually you need to have a lot more shares than a lot of people combined to be officially a co-owner, but we call that being a majority shareholder." "And how do we do that?" Ghen asked, now growing curious but still not understanding why such a concept exists. "Simple. Buy shares." Ryan said simply. "And that leads into the second piece of awesome news. Zilia's corporate has a product in mind, a premium-package of water delivery. Instead of the usual water that you pump out, filter and ensure its potable before delivery, with the premium package, not only will you get that, but you'll also get all of the required nutrients and vitamins the zazk body requires! And they feel you guys have the best expertise and understanding to pull it off! So, here's what we're offering as a good-faith bonus: A 25% increase to your annual salary as well as being given stock options." Ghen wasn't sure about the second part, but the salary definitely got his attention, as well as everyone else's. Although his job was considered to have a good pay, Ghen isn't going to say no to a higher salary. In fact, he's been focusing his work on getting a promotion so he can come home with even more credits in pocket. "What do you mean by stock options?" Ghen asked after some time. Ryan let out that smile again, the one that revealed his teeth. "If you choose to transfer over to the new group, you'll be provided 50,000 shares in Zilia itself. Why's that awesome? Let me walk you through it. Right now, our last closing price per share was 3.02 credits. And if you have 50,000 shares during that time, you're sitting on 151,000 credits, if you cash it out immediately." "And why shouldn't we?" One of the coordinators demanded in an ambiguous tone. "Because the price per share changes a lot." Ryan explained promptly. "When we got done with the IPO? It closed at 2.73 a share. Right now? My money's on the closing price being 2.99 a share. However, we are extremely confident in this premium package being successful. If it does? Well, my bet is that the share price will skyrocket to 3.12 a share. If you hold those shares and the price gets to what my bet was? You'll instead get 156,000 credits. Just by holding onto them, you just made an additional 5,000 credits!" "And what if we have more shares?" Ghen questioned, now getting excited at the prospect of free money. "Even more money!" Ryan laughed a bit. "And don't forget about dividends, but that's for another time. The premium group is gearing up right now, we just need the workforce. If any of you wants in, I'll be back tomorrow with all the forms needed to make it official. Take the day and tonight to think it over, yeah?" Everything else melted into a blur. Ghen was practically on autopilot that whole day. Was this the secret to the humans' incredibly massive economy? How so many of them have amassed so much money out of nowhere? All you had to do was just buy this share out of a company and you get more money without even working? As soon as he got home, Ghen knew what he was going to do during the night. After feverishly looking through the galnet, now having the human race connected to it, he looked and gathered up as many books that were translated into zazk as he could find, all talking about the human economic system. The last time he undertook such an intensive study was during his primary education phase. And during his search, he even found forums on the galnet that were completely dedicated to the human's economy. All of them talking about strategies on what company, or stock, to pick. How to analyze a company's performance to determine if it was worth the money, or it had potential to grow over time. And that was when he discovered the humans found another method to the extremely simple buying and selling process. There were humans and some other immigrated aliens who made five times what Ghen could receive over a simple month just by watching the share prices during trading hours, and then buying and selling them at the proper times. Ghen's mind was just absolutely flabbergasted. He thought it was just some strange concept only aliens could make, but no, not with the humans. They've practically made their economy into an art or a science. No, not even their economy. Everything. If humans can see a way to make money off of it, they'll do it. And if there isn't, they'll look for a way. Healthcare was monetized. Galnet services, transportation, shopping at the store, they even made all of their utilities into profit-oriented companies. And it was there that Ghen paused, the realization slamming into him. Everything was monetized. Which means, if you don't have the money for it, you're not getting it. Right? Are the humans truly that ruthless? So obsessed with making money? To the point that they're willing to deprive their own people of the absolute necessities if it's a source of credits? Ghen let out a scoff. There's no way. Nobody is that cruel and callous. He's never been to the United Nations. He can't rely on what a bunch of random people on the galnet says. He decided that from here on out, he'll only go as far as saying that humans are a little obsessed with credits, nothing more. ... There he was. Ryan, sitting in the office provided to him. And there was a rather large line leading to him. Looks like word got around. Although, the line wasn't as large as he expected it to be. Maybe the others thought it was just a ruse? That there's no such thing as making free money by spending it on such a made-up concept? Ghen only knows that, if it is a ruse, it's an extremely elaborate one, where all of the humans are in on it. And he believes that's just extremely ridiculous. At the end, if he's unsure, he'll just take the transfer for the very real increase in his very real salary. And although he spent a very good chunk of the night reading up on how humans do things, he's still going to play it smart. He'll leave his 50,000 shares alone and see where it goes from there. "Good morning sir." Ryan greeted warmly once Ghen took his seat. "Now, name please?" "Ghen." He answered, barely keeping his nerves down. "Alright...and what's your position at this location?" Ryan questioned after scribbling on his form. "I monitor the pumping stations near the extraction sites." Ghen explained, staying on point. "To be more specific, I check to see if they're in need of maintenance, as well as reading the flow rate that's determined by the calculators installed there. If there's too little for what's needed, I pump out more. And if there's too much, I pull it back a little." "Nice...and how long have you been doing it for?" Ryan complimented with a nod. "As of tomorrow, ten years." Ghen replied, voice quickly changing to minor awe once he realized that fact. "Excellent. Do you have anyone in mind you'd like to replace you here?" Ryan questioned after another scribble. "If you don't have anyone, you're free to say so." Ghen took a moment to think it over. A bunch of names went through his mind, but one stuck with him. "Tilik. He's just been accepted here, but he's learned quickly. Very attentive and he always catches something subtle. I think he'll do really well in my position, even better actually." "Tilik, really?" Ryan questioned with a little shock, going through his completed forms. Ghen felt a short sense of panic in him. Did something happen, or was Tilik actually transferring? His answer didn't take long to reveal itself. "Right, Tilik was actually one of the first people to want to transfer here. He's actually requested to be part of the testing teams specifically. Do you have a second choice?" "Um...no, actually." Ghen replied, feeling a little ashamed. "Tilik was my only choice, to be honest." "Hey, don't worry." Ryan said assuringly with his hands raised. "Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes, there's just nobody up to snuff, right? 'Kay, so, last question. Is there anything specific you'd like to do when given the transfer?" "If you need someone monitoring new pumps, I'd be happy to do that." Ghen stated. "So basically same job but with better payoff, am I right?" Ryan grinned. "I hear you. Sometimes, we're just not paid enough for what we're doing. I know I think that sometimes. Uh, our secret, yeah?" "Yeah, our secret." Ghen nodded, thinking it'd be better to have friendly relations with the human, just in case. "Awesome. Back on topic, that's it." Ryan announced, placing the form on his pile. "We'll give you a call when you're accepted." "Oh, uh, that's it?" Ghen questioned with a shrug in shocked surprise. "What, expecting a question like, why do you want to transfer?" Ryan chuckled a bit as he leaned in his seat. "You can bullshit all you want, but we both know the answer. Sweet money and stock options. Not saying that's a bad answer of course, just that it's pretty obvious." "I suppose it is." Ghen commented, realizing the point. "Also, you mentioned this...dividend? Is that for Zilia shares?" Ryan laughed a little bit before nodding. "Yep, announced before I came here. About 0.43 per share. Want to know why that's awesome? Instead of waiting for the proper price to cash out your shares, now? The company pays you for each share you hold." "A...Are you serious?" Ghen demanded, flabbergasted. Ryan nodded with his now-trademark grin. "Dead serious. If you get the transfer, and get those 50,000 shares? A little head math...right, if you hold onto those, in addition to your salary, you'll now annually be paid 21,500 credits, if you keep it at 50,000 shares. Only you can decide to sell or buy shares." Ghen just stood there silent and motionless, no idea of whether to believe it or not, to which Ryan just laughed. Once he walked out of the room, he managed to snap back to reality. Again, just focus on the very real pay-raise. He'll deal with the other parts later. After he returned to his spot, he spotted Tizx approaching by his desk. The coordinator seems to be as casual as always. "I saw you in that line a bit ago, Ghen." He said as he leaned on the desk. "Guess you're really taking that human's word?" "I mean, I don't know about all this share business or what not." Ghen began with a shrug, his tone sounding a little defensive. "But I mean, having a bigger salary? Course I'm going for it when I can. And if all this magic credits turn out to be real? You realize we can live like the royal servants, right? Get the best cars, the nicest food and all that?" "I'd be very careful, Ghen." Tizx warned in a sudden shift in tone. "Don't trust those humans. The way they just...obsess over money? Come up with more and more insane ways of getting credits? I don't know, it just makes my wings twitch." "You think this is a bad idea?" Ghen asked with a little surprise at the change-in-demeanor. "I think you should be careful, with the humans, and with what you're saying." Tizx replied, straightening his posture. "I wouldn't put it past those Earthmen to backstab you if it gets them a few more credits. And we all know how the royal servants get if any of us lowly commoners start thinking we can break into their circle." "I hear you, I'll be on my guard, promise." Ghen stated with a nod. With a confirming nod of his own, Tizx returned back to his duty, walking past Ghen's desk. Several weeks later. Everything became so much better. Ghen got the transfer. He didn't need to relocate to a new residence either. And after he was walked through into learning how to manage his stock account, and seeing that new form of payment in his hands, he already felt as though he made the best decision. But it was only when he decided to take those shares more seriously that he became privy to what he was given. After receiving the dividend payment, and actually seeing it was real, valid credits after transferring it to his main bank account, all he could describe was the most powerful high he ever felt. While his first thoughts were to buy himself a royalty-class car, some nicer furnishings for his home, or even a better home entirely, he ended up going the smarter route. After going back to his stock account, he discovered that Zilia's shares rose to about 3.22 credits in price. Knowing that this was the easiest money he could ever make, he took all of his dividend earnings and bought more shares in Zilia, bringing him to owning 56,891. And from his new regional coordinator, a human named Dylan, tomorrow is the grand release of the premium package. For just a monthly rate of 14.99 credits, the tap water will now include a sizeable portion of all nutrients and vitamins required in the zazk physiology. Still, Ghen has to admit. He's not entirely sure why anybody would want such a thing, if they'd even go for it. But, as long as he's practically swimming in easy credits, he won't pay much attention to it. And just like when he was intensively studying the basics of how the human economy worked, he barely got any sleep. His mind was constantly thinking about the things he would buy. Or rather, what other stocks to put his credits into. Even now he can still hardly believe it. Just spend your money on some, make-believe thing and, if you wait long enough and picked the right stock, you'll get more than you spent back? His mind even wandered onto what human colonies, or even their homeworld, Earth, was like. If everybody was making so much money, what kind of things would they offer? What kind of ridiculous service or product or item can you get? He's even debating on joining some forum and just asking around. Explain how he's new to how humans do things and was wondering what he should expect if he's successful. By the time he felt like he can go to sleep, the binary-stars of the system were rising from the horizon. After getting out of his bed and changing to clean clothes, his mind returned onto what-ifs. What if he bought better clothes? He's had his eye on that human brand of luxury clothes, Tessuti di Venezia, that's been all the rage amongst the royal servants. Or maybe he can go on vacation and just check out Earth for real? It was a short ride to his workplace from his home. After getting stuff his stuff and preparing to walk through the doors, he heard the roar of a car grow louder. When he looked, he saw the sleekest and quite possibly the coolest looking car he's ever seen. Each time the engine revved it would startle him, both from how harsh it sounded as well as just how intense it sounded. And after it parked, he saw the doors pop out and then slide along the body back. And there, he saw Tilik, the seat literally turning and extending out a bit before he got off. As soon as he saw Ghen staring, he struck a rather prideful pose after putting on his lab coat and then sauntered over to Ghen. "What do you think?" Tilik said, without any doubt inviting praise or compliments. "D...Did you actually buy that?" Ghen asked, unable to tear his eyes away from the car. "You're Queens-damn right I did!" Tilik laughed happily. "Thing takes off like a starship, has temperature-controlled seating, all-in-one center console, barely any bouncing on rough roads. Hoof, best decision I've ever made!" "How much did that thing cost?" Ghen asked after letting out an incredulous laugh. "Five million credits." Tilik replied, earning an absolutely shocked stare from Ghen. "And thanks to the incredible salary I have, in addition to all these shares and dividends, I'll pay back the credits I borrowed in no time!" Ghen needed a few moments before he could speak again. "All I've been doing is buying more shares." Tilik laughed and then patted the now-envious monitor's back. "Smart man. I got a little carried away, yeah, but not anymore. Any spending credits I got, going right back to investing. That's what it's called right, investing?" "Yeah, it is." Ghen nodded, feeling a fire light up in his thorax. "And also? Today's the day that the premium water thing is being released. Here's hoping it starts out well, right?" "Oh it will, trust me." Tilik chuckled as they both began making their way inside the workplace. "Lots of research, lots of study. By the Queen, so much of it...it'll make your head spin." And after hearing that, Ghen had a moment of realization. "Hey, Tilik? How did you get such a nice position anyways? Weren't you just studying under me before the humans came along?" Tilik let out a sigh after opening the door. "I'll be honest, I never wanted your job. Not because it's boring or terrible, just...I didn't suffer so many sleepless nights in the science academy just to be a glorified button pusher. This is what I've always wanted. Doing science, solving problems rather than just applying the solution, you know?" "Wait, you got an academic certificate?" Ghen questioned, completely floored. "How did you end up beneath me then? I should've been answering to you!" "Simple." Tilik gave a heavier sigh. "A royal servant was asking for the same job I was. Take a guess at who got it." "Ouch. Good thing the humans came along when they did, yeah?" Ghen was taken aback. He never heard anything about a servant taking a job at his place. "Looks like you're proving yourself to be well suited." "By the Queen, of course I am." Tilik nodded. "Like I said, I nearly broke my wings through so many nights, got certified top of my class, all just to get pushed to the dirt because someone who was born into a particular family wanted the same thing I did? I know I'm smarter than any of those empty-skull servants back in the Center. I know that, whatever, uh...corporate? Yeah, whatever corporate wants out of science, I will xeek give it to them." "Well, let me know how things go in the lab." Ghen said, admiring his drive as they neared the main office floor. "Because this is where the button pusher needs to go." Tilik let out a laugh as he nodded. "Hey, how about we meet up at Queen's Fine Eatery tonight. I'll pay, yeah?" Ghen, at first, wanted to admonish him for choosing such an outrageously expensive place to go. But he quickly realized that, he truly is good for it, thanks to the humans. "Well, hey, if you're paying for it." ... It was a fantastic opening. After being told what news sites to keep in mind for stocks, he first heard it from Dylan, and then got more detail on Business Today. There was such a massive demand right from the start that Zilia needs to increase extraction just to meet it. But what really got his attention was the effect it had. Zilia Water Delivery's share price just blasted off. After seemingly holding steady at about 3.15, by the time he got home and logged onto his account, it already reached 7.04 a share. The calculator on his account told him that he got a value-gain of 54.26%. Never in his entire life had he felt such...joy. With all of the shares he currently has? He's sitting at 400,512.64 credits. He knows that it is woefully pathetic compared to what the royal servants have just in their pockets, but the fact that he has such money, just by owning some intangible concept? Why even work at Zilia? Why doesn't he just sit at home, figure out what companies to invest in and make his money that way? What's even the point in working a real job, getting a pathetic pay when you can just take the money you have, determine where to spend it, and get triple back? All just sitting on your wings at home, researching? He was so wrapped up in his excited high that he completely forgot he was going to meet Tilik at Queen's. After quickly and haphazardly putting on his nicer clothes, he got to the place only a few minutes late. Tilik was there by the guide, no doubt having been waiting for him. As soon as he strode up, Tilik's wings stiffned out some. No doubt he must've seen the numbers as well. "I can see your wings, Ghen." Tilik began with an excited chuckle. "Made some serious credits?" Ghen let out an incredulous scoff, struggling to find the words for a moment. "Incredible. All I'm going to say." "Likewise." Tilik chortled some before nodding to the table guide. "All here. Table please?" "Right this way, sir." The guide said politely. It was a short walk, travelling between round tables. The vast majority were populated by zazk, but Ghen was surprised at seeing a few humans here as well. No doubt corporate workers checking out the local food. He did spot them having bowls filled with some kind of mass. Some were brown, others white with what looks to be black specks on them. They arrived at their table. A rather nice one, affording a view out the windows into the busy colony streets. Once Tilik and Ghen settled in, the guide handed out the menus. "May I suggest our rather popular option for tonight?" The guide began. "Human ice-cream. Ingredients sourced from Earth itself. Very cold, but incredibly sweet, and coming in many flavors. The most popular amongst us is called vanilla-bean. The vanilla itself soaks in the cream for much of the process, and then the innards sprinkled on top of it near the end. Rumor has it that the Queen herself has demanded personal shipments of such a treat straight from the home of vanilla, an island on Earth named Madagascar." Ghen didn't even spare a single thought. "Vanilla bean ice cream then, please." "Same." Tilik seconded when the guide glanced to him. With a slight bow, the guide proceeded to ferry their orders to the kitchen. Thankfully it was just a short wait before the guide returned, carrying a large plate containing bowls of ice cream. Ghen could feel the saliva on his mandibles as the bowl was placed before them. He could just feel the cold air around that glistening mass of sugary goodness. The white snow decorated with the black dots of vanilla bean. Once the guide left them, Tilik and Ghen both dived in at the same time. As soon as the ice cream entered his mouth, touched his tongue, he exploded in incomprehensible bliss. The sweetness, the smooth and creamy mass, even the taste of vanilla he wasn't sure about was just absolutely delightful. It was so overwhelming that his entire body limped, slumping in his seat as he was forced to ride on the surging tide of joy and happiness sweeping over him. Tilik was no different. He too was taken completely by the effects of the ice cream, his wings fluttering some against the seat. Ghen could hear some noise. It was the humans they passed by. They were chuckling, grinning, and glancing over at them discreetly. Unlike the two zazk, the humans seemingly just enjoyed the ice cream as if it was just another nice dessert to them. Or perhaps they couldn't allow themselves to succumb to the high? And as soon as the wave of indescribable bliss and happiness subsided, Ghen knew. He just knew. This was the life. He wanted this. The ice cream was just the beginning. So many things denied because he didn't have the credits, or worse, not the blood. Because he was just a drone in the great Collective, even if he had the credits, he wasn't allowed because of what caste he was born in. That fire that sparked in him when he saw Tilik's new car? It exploded into a raging firestorm. And when looking into Tilik's eyes, Ghen could see the same. He was on the same page as Ghen was. Both of them were sold. They have the credits. And the humans? If you can pay for it, they'll never discriminate. All they cared about is if you have the money. And by the Queen, Ghen and Tilik will endeavor to amass as much credits as physically possible. The rest of the night faded into a blur. A blur that evokes only one thing. Bliss. It was only when he walked through the door of his pathetic hut that Ghen's mind snapped back to focus. His mandibles felt sticky. And he felt a weight in his stomach. How much ice cream did he eat? Whatever it was, he ate such volume that the lower-section of his throax extended and rounded out, visible even under his shirt. He felt something odd in his pocket. It was a receipt. 43,000 credits for ten bowls of vanilla bean ice cream. Was that ten bowls for both of them? Or individually? Ghen didn't care. He's good for it. Returning back to his calculator, he acted upon the decision that he had made at that eatery. He's acquiring as many books about investing and stock trading as he could find, frequent and study all the discussions and arguments presented by other like-minded individuals such as he, all to ensure he can live the good life. And he had a very good feeling Tilik was doing the exact same thing. Well, first, the gurgling in his stomach, as well as the feeling of something rising demanded his attention. Looks like he'll need to take the night off to let his stomach get back to normal. Three Years Later. Ghen looked out beyond the horizon, seeing the colony that he grew up in. On the far side was where his old house was. With only a simple robe on, made from the finest silk from Earth's nation-state of China, he relaxed in his seat. It was a long road. Stockpiling credits from pre-existing investments and from subsequent pays, he and Tilik made it. From having only half a million in assets and cash, now transformed to over eight-hundred million. And now, his call contracts on American Interstellar? They've just announced a breakthrough in their next generation of warp drives, reducing the speed coefficient even further, resulting in far faster travel. And with that, their stock price climbed sharply. Another hundred million credits in the bank. Soon, very soon, he and Tilik are about to become the galaxy's first zazk billionares. But that's not enough. There are many humans who are billionares. Only those he can count on one hand are considered trillionares. He's going to break into that circle. He and Tilik. Looking beyond the colony, he saw the abandoned building of the workplace he transferred to when the humans arrived. Turns out, the reason for such a high demand was that the humans also slipped in sugar to the tap water. As soon as that broke, many influential royal servants demanded investigations and outright banning of Terran Galactic Company's influence over the former government division. Zilia's stock price plummeted. But thanks to an advance tip from his human coordinator, Dylan, he and Tilik made a put contract. And that's where they struck gold, as the human saying goes. Dylan warned that if they were citizens of the United Nations, they'd be investigated and convicted for insider trading. But, since they weren't, and the Collective were only just introduced to capitalism, there's no risk at all. Now the colony is going through a withdrawal phase, Zilia has been dissolved and reformed back as a government division and are currently at work re-establishing the standard, plain water delivery. "Well, shit." Tilik muttered as he walked up to Ghen's side, taking well to human speech. "Looks like you win. American Interstellar's announcement really was a good thing. There goes a million credits. Ah well, the Royal Shipyards will make it back for me soon." "Oh? Did they just go corporate?" Ghen asked curiously, glancing to Tilik. "Hell yeah they did." Tilik chuckled, sitting down. "Queen and her retard servants fought it hard, but Royal Shipyards is now officially a human-style corporation. And, to a surprise to all the xenophobes in the galaxy, they're already being offered contracts for ship production. That'll raise the stock price pretty good." "What's that human word...?" Ghen muttered, already having a reply in mind. "Dick? Yeah, calls or suck my dick, Tilik." Tilik roared in laughter. "Already made them. Forty credits a share by this day next month." "I have half a mind to go thirty." Ghen chuckled. "Either way, until then, I heard from Dylan that he knows a guy who knows several prime human women who happen to be into zazk." "You're interested in women?" Tilik said as his wings fluttered. "With how often you tell me to suck you off, I'd have thought differently." "Oh, I always thought it was you who was into men." Ghen responded dryly. "Just wanted to be a good friend, you know? Considering how you never seem to make it past, Hey sweet thing, I'm rich you know." "Oh, go fuck yourself." Tilik countered with a little laugh. After he stopped, wings stiffened, he looked to Ghen. "So, know any royal servants we can put the squeeze on for more revenue streams?" "I got just the one." Ghen nodded, sitting up. "Fzik. He's been fighting to control the ice cream trade. Worried it's a corrupting influence. Got done talking with the human CEO of Nestle earlier. If we clear the way, he'll know how to squeeze a little more gains in stock price when he makes the announcement." Tilik's wings stiffened even more, signaling his approval. "Alright, time to throw some credits around, yeah?" AN: Sorry for the period of no updates. College is starting up, lots of stuff to clear and work out. Not sure why but I just got a bug up my butt about incorporating money and the stock market into a short. Here it is. Sorry if it seems abrupt, character limit fast approaching. Let me know how you guys think about it!
I did not think we'd get here. COVID cases are in the single digits, and many cases are off-campus (https://health.gatech.edu/coronavirus/health-alerts). Test positivity rates are incredibly low (https://gatech-covid-tracker.com/). I think we can say that Georgia Tech has navigated through it's first wave of COVID cases. How did this happen? I'm not an epidemiologist, and even Dr. Fauci himself wouldn't be able to give you a 100% correct answer, because nobody can give you a 100% correct answer - there are too many unknowns. But, we can look at a few factors. 1.) Modified herd immunity threshold. Immunity is likely a real phenomena with COVID-19. Yes, there are now 7 confirmed cases of reinfection, but immunity is not a binary thing. It is not as if every person infected with COVID will either be immune, or they will be as unprotected as the rest of us. It's likely that the majority of COVID cases will gain some sort of immunity, and some will gain no immunity. For the sake of simplicity, let's just assume everyone infected with COVID at our campus has immunity. Georgia Tech has, in total, around 900 positive COVID cases. There are ~14,000 people on campus if you wildly extrapolate from a few surveys taken on this subreddit - if anyone could find where the actual number is, it would be helpful. Additionally, around 5-10% of the US was probably infected in the original Feb-March surge, which would be 700-1400 people. This brings us to 1600-2300 immune people in a population of 14000. The herd immunity threshold is given by (1-1/R0). Uncontrolled, the R0 for SARS-CoV2 is ~4. This means roughly 75% of the populace must be infected to gain "true immunity" - IE, you can do whatever you want, no distancing, no masking, etc. Obviously this is a bad idea. But, we aren't letting SARS-Cov2 spread uncontrollably. Mask compliance is high, people are trying to distance, people are washing their hands more often, etc. R0 is a function of environmental parameters as well - increasing distancing and hygiene decrease your R0. So what is the R0 with distancing and masking? That's a big question, but estimates from New York and Western Europe say it was somewhere around 0.8-1.1. A college campus will have a higher R0 than a typical state or nation, so we'll shift this up to 1.1-1.3. This brings our herd immunity threshold to anywhere between 9-23%. We currently have in the range of 11.5%-16%, and some cases on campus may have gone totally undetected. Here's a twitter thread by an MIT data scientist if you want to read more about the "modified herd immunity" phenomena. 2.) The people who took the most risks have already gotten COVID. Anecdotally, and logically, this makes sense. People going to bars, frat parties, etc have already been infected, and that was our "first wave". Unfortunately, I don't know how to quantify this in any meaningful way, but it is probably a factor. 3.) Behavior change. People could've seen the surge in cases and decided to be more careful - get tested weekly, avoid indoor dining, go to the CRC early in the morning when it's less crowded rather than in the middle of the day, etc. This would lower R0 as well and aid with point 1, although again, I don't know how to meaningfully quantify this. But it is a possible factor. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ If you made it through the above, congratulations. The question now is what Tech should do. Frankly, I feel like I am wasting both money and time this semester. This is unavoidable, and not Tech's fault or USG's fault - just a virus doing it's thing. But, just as governments - those of New York, China, South Korea, Germany, etc - gradually eased back on restrictions as the first curve was crushed, I believe Tech can and should do the same. We should not throw the floodgates open and let all hell break loose - but I think we can slowly loosen the screws in a manner that improves educational experiences, and in a way that avoids a second wave. Remote learning sucks. At least for intro classes, there is far better free material on Coursera - made by people who know how to deliver content online and who have been doing it for years - as opposed to professors who were thrown into this a few months ago. As we all know, many "hybrid" courses are pretty much all online. I'd suggest the OPTION - for both professors and students, mandates are a god awful idea - to have more in-person hybrid sections. This won't give me my money's worth - but it'll give us something. As of now, I have three hybrid classes - and yet have not had a single in person class. These classes can be conducted in a safe, distanced/masked manner, as to keep our R0 low and keep reaping the rewards of the "modified herd immunity" discussed above. This might be difficult to implement in the middle of this semester, but I think it can be implemented next semester, in the absence of mass vaccination until (in the most optimistic case) February-March. Other things include opening up lounges in dorms. Also, I know visiting other dorms is technically banned, but everyone I know is ignoring that rule. Many people aren't even aware of that rule - might as well just get rid of it if compliance is close to nil. But, I'd prefer more in-person classes above all else. This was a long post. Ultimately, COVID is a game of trades - we could lock everyone in their homes until there's a vaccine, but that would destroy our society. We could let everyone run wild until there's a vaccine - again, that would destroy our society. It's a multivariate optimization problem, where we are trying to maximize safety, education, and the student experience. I'm just a dude trying to help us find that maximum. TLDR: COVID-19 first wave beaten due to number of factors. More in-person classes would be nice.
Subreddit News, Tournaments, and some CCU Mythbusting
Greetings Warriors! Now that the (green) smoke has settled from the Y4S2 and the CCU landing, we thought now would be a good time to do a quick subreddit news post, as there are a few things to catch you up on - before Y4S3 arrives and there is more news to take the sticky post slot!
Next, I’d like to welcome two new mods to the team, u/SenpaiKaplan (SenKa) and u/DaniUsagi. I’m sure regular readers will recognise these two, as they are both frequent contributors to the sub, with many interesting tech posts between them. We’ve been seeing a big increase in viewers and posts since the CCU, and their help and expertise will be much appreciated! Please give them a warm welcome!
Poll Posts have been disabled
Since Reddit added the new Poll option on posts, we have seen a big influx of these posts, and unfortunately 90% of them have been very low effort, normally just a title and a binary choice, which we have had to remove. Adding a “no low-effort polls” clause to rule 6 hasn’t helped with that situation, so we have decided to disable the option entirely. If you do still want to do poll the readers here as part of a discussion post, or want to gather data to find opinions on a specific question, you are welcome to include links to external survey sites (like surveymonkey or google forms) in text posts - we are only trying to cut down on low-effort posts, not genuine use of poll for interesting content.
Info Hub Update
The Info Hub has been updated with all the changes from the CCU and the follow-up patches, including the 3 new executions, new punishes, balance information on each character, and an All Attack Properties sheet which allows you to compare attacks across the cast, and contains lots of data that doesn’t fit on the individual character sheets (like hit reactions for example). We are still in the process of revamping the General Info sheet, and an update to the Viability Tables is also in the works, now that there has been a decent amount of time since the CCU for the meta to stabilise. Also planned is addition of frame advantage sections on some moves for which it is particularly relevant. If you spot any errors, outdated info, or have requests for information you’d like to see included in the hub, please let us know by commenting on the hub itself, messaging me or the mod team as a whole, or contacting one of us on discord.
Some CCU Mythbusting
Since the CCU update, I have seen a few persistent bits of misinformation floating about, and I’d like to take this opportunity to bust a few of these myths:
The CCU did NOT remove delayed attacks. The changes to indicator speeds with the CCU made it so that delaying or buffering attacks do not make a difference to the length of animation + indicator shown to the opponent - but it did not remove the ability to delay attacks. You can still delay an attack within the input window, which can be used to give attacks different parry timings, or to better dodge incoming attacks in the case of dodge attacks. The best way to demonstrate this is to go into the training arena as JJ, and do the light -> light chain, first inputting the attacks as fast as you can, and then leaving as big a gap between the lights as possible.
X Hero’s damage has NOT been “gutted”. In particular, Peacekeeper... In the CCU, attack damage has been mostly standardised - based on the speed of the attack, and its position in chain, and very little else. For example, almost every 800ms opener heavy does 24 damage, almost every 400ms chain light does 9 damage, and so on. This means for some characters that previously had greatly overtuned damage, their damage has come down to the average, and for others, their damage has stayed the same or even gone up in places. The one category of attacks that have not had any changes to their damage are bleed attacks, and so, Peacekeeper’s heavies have been reduced so that combined with the guaranteed 1 + 10 bleed from Deep Gouge, they do the standard damage. Yes, it uses a bit more stamina than a regular heavy, and yes, bleed damage has its own downsides (and upsides) compared to immediate damage, but to say that Peacekeeper’s damage has been disproportionately lowered is just false. The frame advantage on Deep Gouge is considerable, so it behaves almost like it chains anyway. If anything, her damage is higher than average, thanks to her GB triple stab punish being unchanged at 38 total damage, which is way higher than the standard GB punish of 24, and closer to the level of OOS punishes.
You get frame advantage after being hit by chain lights and light chain finishers, NOT all light attacks that do not chain. I have seen many people saying that Warmonger “breaks the rules” of frame advantage by having advantage on her bash follow-up, and the same for Warlord. However those attacks are not part of a normal attack chain, and therefore do not fall under the same frame advantage rules. This also makes sense if you step back and think about it - the changes were implemented specifically to weaken “light spam”, and special bash follow-ups cannot be “light spam” because they cannot be used as part of Light->Light chains. There currently is one character who does break the light attack frame advantage rules - and that is Highlander’s chain lights, which do have frame advantage on hit. As of the patch on the 27th, Shugoki’s light attacks no longer have frame advantage on hit - and your light attack will hit before his next one. But the hyperarmour on them does still allow him to trade with your light attack.
And finally, a mention of “light spam” - no, the CCU did NOT “buff light spam”. The CCU has certainly buffed light attacks, but it has also specifically nerfed light attack spam. To be pedantic - “spam” is when someone repeats the same attack over and over, and this is what the devs have taken from the complaints about “light spam”. The CCU has given more tools to allow you to defend against repeated light attacks: dodging out of Light -> Light chains, and granting frame advantage to the defender after light finishers. Additionally, the damage nerfs, and stamina changes have made it so that you will survive for longer against an opponent who is spamming lights. To be honest, I think it is quite impressive that the devs have managed to improve light attacks in general, whilst still nerfing the specific use-case of “spamming” them. The continuing complaints seem to be because for a significant fraction of the community, “spam” just means “doing anything more than once per fight, especially if I lose to it”. And if that’s what you are actually complaining about, honestly, there are no balance changes the devs could ever make that will make you happy, short of your own personal win button. There is still one thing you can do though: Click here
That’s all Warriors, thanks for reading, and see you on the battlefield!
Retard Bot Update 2: What is there to show for six months of work?
What is there to show? Not shit, that's why I made this pretty 4K desktop background instead: 4K On the real: I've been developing this project like 6 months now, what's up? Where's that video update I promised, showing off the Bot Builder? Is an end in sight? Yes sort of. I back-tested 6 months of data at over 21% on a net SPY-neutral, sixteen year span of time including 2 bear, 2 bull, 2 crab months. But that's not good enough to be sure / reliable. I had gotten so focused on keeping the project pretty and making a video update that I was putting off major, breaking changes that I needed to make. The best quant fund ever made, the Medallion fund, was once capable of roughly 60% per year consistently, but in Retard Bot's case 1.5% compounded weekly. "But I make 60% on one yolo" sure whatever, can you do it again every year, with 100% of your capital, where failure means losing everything? If you could, you'd be loading your Lambo onto your Yacht right now instead of reading this autistic shit.
The End Goal
1.5% compounded weekly average is $25K -> $57M in 10 years, securing a fairly comfortable retirement for your wife's boyfriend. It's a stupidly ambitious goal. My strategy to pull it off is actually pretty simple. If you look at charts for the best performing stocks over the past 10 years, you'll find that good companies move in the same general trajectory more often than they don't. This means the stock market moves with momentum. I developed a simple equation to conservatively predict good companies movements one week into the future by hand, and made 100%+ returns 3 weeks in a row. Doing the math took time, and I realized a computer could do much more complex math, on every stock, much more efficiently, so I developed a bot and it did 100% for 3 consecutive weeks, buying calls in a bull-market. See the problem there? The returns were good but they were based on a biased model. The model would pick the most efficient plays on the market if it didn't take a severe downturn. But if it did, the strategy would stop working. I needed to extrapolate my strategy into a multi-model approach that could profit on momentum during all different types of market movement. And so I bought 16 years of option chain data and started studying the concept of momentum based quantitative analysis. As I spent more and more weeks thinking about it, I identified more aspects of the problem and more ways to solve it. But no matter how I might think to design algorithms to fundamentally achieve a quantitative approach, I knew that my arbitrary weights and variables and values and decisions could not possibly be the best ones.
Why Retard Bot Might Work
So I approached the problem from all angles, every conceivable way to glean reliably useful quantitative information about a stock's movement and combine it all into a single outcome of trade decisions, and every variable, every decision, every model was a fluid variable that machine learning, via the process of Evolution could randomly mutate until perfection. And in doing so, I had to fundamentally avoid any method of testing my results that could be based on a bias. For example, just because a strategy back-tests at 40% consistent yearly returns on the past 16 years of market movement doesn't mean it would do so for the next 16 years, since the market could completely end its bull-run and spend the next 16 years falling. Improbable, but for a strategy outcome that can be trusted to perform consistently, we have to assume nothing. So that's how Retard Bot works. It assumes absolutely nothing about anything that can't be proven as a fundamental, statistical truth. It uses rigorous machine learning to develop fundamental concepts into reliable, fine tuned decision layers that make models which are controlled by a market-environment-aware Genius layer that allocates resources accordingly, and ultimately through a very complex 18 step process of iterative ML produces a top contender through the process of Evolution, avoiding all possible bias. And then it starts over and does it again, and again, continuing for eternity, recording improved models when it discovers them.
The Current Development Phase
Or... That's how it would work, in theory, if my program wasn't severely limited by the inadequate infrastructure I built it with. When I bought 16 years of data, 2TB compressed to its most efficient binary representation, I thought I could use a traditional database like MongoDB to store and load the option chains. It's way too slow. So here's where I've ended up this past week: It was time to rip off the bandaid and rebuild some performance infrastructure (the database and decision stack) that was seriously holding me back from testing the project properly. Using MongoDB, which has to pack and unpack data up and down the 7 layer OSI model, it took an hour to test one model for one year. I need to test millions of models for 16 years, thousands of times over. I knew how to do that, so instead of focusing on keeping things stable so I could show you guys some pretty graphs n shit, I broke down the beast and started rebuilding with a pure memory caching approach that will load the options chains thousands of times faster than MongoDB queries. And instead of running one model, one decision layer at a time on the CPU, the new GPU accelerated decision stack design will let me run hundreds of decision layers on millions of models in a handful of milliseconds. Many, many orders of magnitude better performance, and I can finally make the project as powerful as it was supposed to be. I'm confident that with these upgrades, I'll be able to hit the goal of 60% consistent returns per year. I'll work this goddamn problem for a year if I have to. I have, in the process of trying to become an entrepreneur, planned project after project and given up half way through when it got too hard, or a partner quit, or someone else launched something better. I will not give up on this one, if it takes the rest of the year or five more. But I don't think it'll come to that. Even with the 20% I've already achieved, if I can demonstrate that in live trading, that's already really good, so there's not really any risk of real failure at this point. But I will, regardless, finish developing the vision I have for Retard Bot and Bidrate Renaissance before I'm satisfied.
Wall Street Week Ahead for the trading week beginning August 17th, 2020
Good Saturday morning to all of you here on stocks. 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 August 17th, 2020.
Stocks are ignoring the lack of a stimulus package from Congress, but that could change - (Source)
Stocks could hang at record levels but gains may be capped until Congress agrees to a new stimulus package to help the economy and the millions of unemployed Americans. Stocks were higher in the past week, and the S&P 500 flirted with record levels it set in February. In the coming week, there are some major retailers reporting earnings, including Walmart, Home Depot and Target, but the season is mostly over and the market is entering a quiet period. There are minutes from the Fed’s last meeting, released Wednesday, and housing data, including starts Tuesday and existing sales Friday. Investors had been watching efforts by Congress to agree to a new stimulus package, but talks have failed and the Senate has gone on recess. There is a concern that Congress will not be convinced to provide a big enough package when it does get to work again on the next stimulus round because recent economic reports look stronger. July’s retail sales, for example, climbed to a record level and recovered to pre-pandemic levels. “The juxtaposition of getting more fiscal stimulus and better data has paralyzed us in our tracks … we’ve seen this sideways [market] action,” said Art Hogan, chief market strategist at National Alliance. “It feels like we need more action from Congress, and the concern is the longer we wait, the better the data gets and the less impactful the next round of stimulus will be.” Some technical analysts say the market may pull back around the high, to allow it to consolidate gains before moving higher into the end of the year. The S&P 500 reached an all-time high of 3,393 on Feb. 19. Hogan said he expects stocks to tread sideways during the dog days of August, but they could begin to react negatively to the election in September. He also said it is important that progress continue against the spread of Covid-19, as the economy continues to reopen. Peter Boockvar, chief investment strategist at Bleakley Advisory Group, said the market could have a wakeup call at some point that the stimulus package has not been approved. “I think it will cross over a line where they care,” he said. “I think the market is in suspended animation of believing there will be a magical deal.” Boockvar said he expects a deal ultimately, but the impact is not likely to be as big as the last round of funding. “What they’re not grasping is any deal, any extension of unemployment benefits, is going to be smaller than it was, and the rate of change should be the most important thing investors focus on,” he said. “Not the binary outcome of whether there’s a deal or no deal. There’s going to be less air going into the balloon.”
It’s the economy
Still, economists expect to see a strong rebound in the third quarter, and are anticipating about about a 20% jump in third-quarter growth. But they also say that could be threatened if Congress does not help with another stimulus package. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, described the July retail sales as a perfect V-shaped recovery, but cautioned it would not last unless more aid gets to individuals and cities and states. Democrats have sought a $3 trillion spending package, and Republicans in the Senate offered a $1 trillion package. They could not reach a compromise, including on a $600 weekly payment to individuals on unemployment which expired July 31. President Donald Trump has tried to fill the gap with executive orders to provide extra benefits to those on unemployment, but the $300 federal payment and $100 from states may take some time to reach individuals, as the processing varies by state. He has also issued an order instructing the Treasury to temporarily defer collection of payroll taxes from individuals making up to $104,000. “I think in August and September, there will be a lot of Ws, if there’s not more help here,” said Zandi, referring to an economic recovery that retrenches from a V shape before heading higher again. “It’s clearly perplexing. It may take the stock market to say we’re not going to get what we expect, and sell off and light a fire.” Zandi said it could come to a situation like 2008, where the stock market sold off sharply before Congress would agree to a program that helped financial companies. “We need a TARP moment to get these guys to help. Maybe if the claims tick higher and the August employment numbers are soft, given the president is focused on the stock market, that might be what it takes to get them back to the table in earnest,” he said, referring to the Troubled Asset Relief Program that helped rescue banks during the financial crisis. He ultimately expects a package of about $1.5 trillion to be approved in September. The lack of funding for state and local governments could result in more layoffs, as they struggle with their current 2021 budgets, Zandi said. Already 1.3 million public sector jobs have been lost since February, and there will be more layoffs and more programs and projects cancelled. The impact will hit contractors and other businesses that provide services to local governments. “The multipliers on state and local government are among the highest of any form of support, so if you don’t provide it, it’s going to ripple through the economy pretty fast,” he said. Economists expect to see a softening in consumer spending in August with the more than 28 million Americans on unemployment benefits as of mid-July no longer receiving any supplemental pay. “The real irony is things are shaping up that September is going to be a bad month, and that’s going to show up in all the data in October,” Zandi said. “They are really taking a chance on this election by not acting.”
This past week saw the following moves in the S&P:
The S&P 500 Index is a few points away from a new all-time high, completing one of the fastest recoveries from a bear market ever. But this will also seal the deal on the shortest bear market ever. Remember, the S&P 500 Index lost 20% from an all-time high in only 16 trading days back in February and March, so it makes sense that this recovery could be one of the fastest ever. From the lows on March 23, the S&P 500 has now added more than 50%. Many have been calling this a bear market rally for months, while we have been in the camp this is something more. It’s easy to see why this rally is different based on where it stands versus other bear market rallies:
They say the stock market is the only place where things go on sale, yet everyone runs out of the store screaming. We absolutely saw that back in March and now with stocks near new highs, many have missed this record run. Here we show how stocks have been usually higher a year or two after corrections.
After a historic drop in March, the S&P 500 has closed higher in April, May, June, and July. This rare event has happened only 11 other times, with stocks gaining the final five months of the year a very impressive 10 times. Only 2018 and the nearly 20% collapse in December saw a loss those final five months.
As shown in the LPL Chart of the Day, this bear market will go down as the fastest ever, at just over one month. The recovery back to new highs will be five months if we get there by August 23, making this one of the fastest recoveries ever. Not surprisingly, it usually takes longer for bear markets in a recession to recover; only adding to the impressiveness of this rally.
“It normally takes 30 months for bear markets during a recession to recover their losses, which makes this recovery all the more amazing,” said LPL Financial Chief Market Strateigst Ryan Detrick.. “Then again, there has been nothing normal about this recession, so maybe we shouldn’t be shocked about yet another record going down in 2020.”
When a Few Basis Points Packs a Punch
US Treasury yields have been on the rise this week with the 10-year yield rising 13 basis points (bps) from 0.56% up to 0.69% after getting as high as 0.72% on Thursday. A 13 bps move higher in interest rates may not seem like a whole lot, but with rates already at such low levels, a small move can have a pretty big impact on the prices of longer-term maturities.
Starting with longer-term US Treasuries, TLT, which measures the performance of maturities greater than 20 years, has declined 3.5% this week. Now, for a growth stock, 3.5% is par for the course, but that kind of move in the Treasury market is no small thing. The latest pullback for TLT also coincides with another failed attempt by the ETF to trade and stay above $170 for more than a day.
The further out the maturity window you go in the fixed income market, the bigger the impact of the move higher in interest rates. The Republic of Austria issued a 100-year bond in 2017, and its movements exemplify the wild moves that small changes in interest rates (from a low base) can have on prices. Just this week, the Austrian 100-year was down over 5%, which is a painful move no matter what type of asset class you are talking about. This week's move, though, was nothing compared to the stomach-churning swings from earlier this year. When Covid was first hitting the fan, the 100-year rallied 57% in the span of less than two months. That kind of move usually occurs over years rather than days, but in less than a third of that time, all those gains disintegrated in a two-and-a-half week span from early to late March. Easy come, easy go. Ironically enough, despite all the big up and down moves in this bond over the last year, as we type this, the bond's price is the same now as it was on this same day last year.
At the headline level, July’s Retail Sales report disappointed as the reading missed expectations by nearly a full percentage point. Just as soon as the report was released, we saw a number of stories pounce on the disappointment as a sign that the economy was losing steam. Looked at in more detail, though, the July report wasn’t all that bad. While the headline reading rose less than expected (1.2% vs 2.1%), Ex Autos and Ex Autos and Gas, the results were much better than expected. Not only that, but June’s original readings were all revised higher by around a full percentage point. Besides the fact that this month’s report was better underneath the surface and June’s reading was revised higher, it was also notable as the seasonally-adjusted annualized rate of sales in July hit a new record high. After the last record high back in January, only five months passed until American consumers were back to their pre-Covid spending ways. For the sake of comparison, back during the Financial Crisis, 40 months passed between the original high in Retail Sales in November 2007 and the next record high in April 2011. 5 months versus 40? Never underestimate the power of the US consumer!
While the monthly pace of retail sales is back at all-time highs, the characteristics behind the total level of sales have changed markedly in the post COVID world. In our just released B.I.G. Tips report we looked at these changing dynamics to highlight the groups that have been the biggest winners and losers from the shifts.
100 Days of Gains
Today marked 100 trading days since the Nasdaq 100's March 20th COVID Crash closing low. Below is a chart showing the rolling 100-trading day percentage change of the Nasdaq 100 since 1985. The 59.8% gain over the last 100 trading days ranks as the 3rd strongest run on record. The only two stronger 100-day rallies ended in January 1999 and March 2000.
While the Nasdaq 100 bottomed on Friday, March 20th, the S&P 500 bottomed the following Monday (3/23). This means tomorrow will mark 100 trading days since the S&P 500's COVID Crash closing low. Right now the rolling 100-day percentage change for the S&P 500 sits at +46.7%. But if the S&P manages to trade at current levels tomorrow, the 100-day gain will jump above 50%. It has been 87 years (1933) since we've seen a 100-day gain of more than 50%!
Whether you want to look at it from the perspective of closing prices or intraday levels, the S&P 500 is doing what just about everybody thought would be impossible less than five months ago - approaching record highs. Relative to its closing high of 3,386.15, the S&P 500 is just 0.27% lower, while it's within half of a percent from its record intraday high of 3,393.52. Through today, the S&P 500 has gone 120 trading days without a record high, and as shown in the chart below, the current streak is barely even visible when viewed in the perspective of all streaks since 1928. Even if we zoom in on just the last five years, the current streak of 120 trading days only ranks as the fourth-longest streak without a new high. While the S&P 500's 120-trading day streak without a new high isn't extreme by historical standards, the turnaround off the lows has been extraordinary. In the S&P 500's history, there have been ten prior declines of at least 20% from a record closing high. Of those ten prior periods, the shortest gap between the original record high and the next one was 309 trading days, and the shortest gap between highs that had a pullback of at least 30% was 484 tradings days (or more than four times the current gap of 120 trading days). For all ten streaks without a record high, the median drought was 680 trading days.
Whenever the S&P 500 does take out its 2/19 high, the question is whether the new high represents a breakout where the S&P 500 keeps rallying into evergreen territory, or does it run out of gas after finally reaching a new milestone? To shed some light on this question, we looked at the S&P 500's performance following each prior streak of similar duration without a new high.
STOCK MARKET VIDEO: Stock Market Analysis Video for Week Ending August 14th, 2020
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STOCK MARKET VIDEO: ShadowTrader Video Weekly 8.16.20
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(VIDEO NOT YET POSTED!) Here are the most notable companies (tickers) reporting earnings in this upcoming trading week ahead-
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Walmart Inc. $132.60
Walmart Inc. (WMT) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:00 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.20 per share on revenue of $134.28 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.29 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 81% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 5.51% with revenue increasing by 2.99%. Short interest has decreased by 12.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 0.6% from its open following the earnings release to be 9.9% above its 200 day moving average of $120.64. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, August 11, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,381 contracts of the $135.00 put expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.9% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.3% move in recent quarters.
NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 4:20 PM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.95 per share on revenue of $3.65 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.01 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 84% expecting an earnings beat The company's guidance was for earnings of $1.83 to $2.06 per share. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 65.25% with revenue increasing by 41.53%. The stock has drifted higher by 31.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 57.7% above its 200 day moving average of $293.24. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,787 contracts of the $460.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 7.7% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 4.0% move in recent quarters.
Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. (BABA) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 7:10 AM ET on Thursday, August 20, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.99 per share on revenue of $21.13 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.11 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 83% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 8.74% with revenue increasing by 26.22%. Short interest has increased by 30.1% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 20.0% above its 200 day moving average of $211.59. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 7, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,935 contracts of the $300.00 call expiring on Friday, November 20, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 3.1% move in recent quarters.
JD.com, Inc. (JD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 5:50 AM ET on Monday, August 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.38 per share on revenue of $26.98 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.46 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 52.00% with revenue increasing by 23.25%. Short interest has increased by 16.7% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 24.1% from its open following the earnings release to be 36.9% above its 200 day moving average of $45.34. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 12,799 contracts of the $62.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 8.0% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 6.4% move in recent quarters.
Home Depot, Inc. (HD) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:00 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $3.71 per share on revenue of $31.67 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $3.75 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 17.03% with revenue increasing by 2.69%. Short interest has decreased by 39.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 16.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 22.4% above its 200 day moving average of $229.20. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 14, 2020 there was some notable buying of 3,323 contracts of the $300.00 call expiring on Friday, August 28, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 4.2% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 2.5% move in recent quarters.
Lowe's Companies, Inc. (LOW) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:00 AM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $2.93 per share on revenue of $21.29 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $2.97 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 78% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 36.28% with revenue increasing by 1.42%. Short interest has decreased by 19.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 25.9% from its open following the earnings release to be 31.2% above its 200 day moving average of $117.67. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Friday, August 7, 2020 there was some notable buying of 1,994 contracts of the $170.00 call expiring on Friday, August 21, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.0% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 5.8% move in recent quarters.
Target Corp. (TGT) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Wednesday, August 19, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $1.56 per share on revenue of $19.30 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $1.64 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 75% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 14.29% with revenue increasing by 4.77%. Short interest has decreased by 36.8% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 10.0% from its open following the earnings release to be 18.0% above its 200 day moving average of $115.73. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Monday, August 10, 2020 there was some notable buying of 4,479 contracts of the $135.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 6.3% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 7.7% move in recent quarters.
Sea Limited (SE) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:30 AM ET on Tuesday, August 18, 2020. The consensus estimate is for a loss of $0.47 per share on revenue of $1.03 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is ($0.36) per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 74% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 34.29% with revenue increasing by 136.16%. Short interest has decreased by 8.5% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 91.7% from its open following the earnings release to be 98.1% above its 200 day moving average of $63.87. Overall earnings estimates have been revised lower since the company's last earnings release. On Tuesday, August 4, 2020 there was some notable buying of 4,000 contracts of the $110.00 put expiring on Friday, January 15, 2021. Option traders are pricing in a 12.9% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 16.7% move in recent quarters.
Niu Technologies (NIU) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 3:00 AM ET on Monday, August 17, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.07 per share on revenue of $88.07 million and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.11 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 57% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for earnings to decline year-over-year by 30.00% with revenue increasing by 13.97%. Short interest has increased by 18.9% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 129.8% from its open following the earnings release to be 90.3% above its 200 day moving average of $10.94. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. The stock has averaged a 3.7% move on earnings in recent quarters.
BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. (BJ) is confirmed to report earnings at approximately 6:45 AM ET on Thursday, August 20, 2020. The consensus earnings estimate is $0.57 per share on revenue of $3.64 billion and the Earnings Whisper ® number is $0.60 per share. Investor sentiment going into the company's earnings release has 73% expecting an earnings beat. Consensus estimates are for year-over-year earnings growth of 46.15% with revenue increasing by 8.79%. Short interest has decreased by 3.2% since the company's last earnings release while the stock has drifted higher by 33.8% from its open following the earnings release to be 46.7% above its 200 day moving average of $28.27. Overall earnings estimates have been revised higher since the company's last earnings release. On Wednesday, August 12, 2020 there was some notable buying of 2,119 contracts of the $50.00 call expiring on Friday, September 18, 2020. Option traders are pricing in a 12.4% move on earnings and the stock has averaged a 10.0% move in recent quarters.
Edit - Its been a few days since I posted so I wont be checking in to answer new questions here. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to be through my stream. This guide should still be relevant to patch 10.17 but I'd recommend QuickSilver > GA due to Titans resolve nerfs. Hello, I'm Atornyo and I first hit challenger in NA as a mech one-trick last patch and achieved as high as rank 18 in patch 10.16. I really enjoy mech as I mostly played reroll mech to hit diamond last set and think it is the most interesting composition in the game. I will be referring to mech pilots with a focus on Viktor carry as Viktor Mech. My lolchess: https://lolchess.gg/profile/na/atornyo Ideal Viktor Mech Level 8: https://lolchess.gg/buildeset3.5?deck=f6e3df00de7c11ea85825783e5dd3235 (legendaries can replace units with similar traits if you find a 2 star version of them or find a legendary before 2 starring the unit they replace: Lulu>Cass gp 1star > ziggs if you have an extra defensive item to give gp Ekko>shaco) Level 9:https://lolchess.gg/buildeset3.5?deck=1c8af8c0de7d11ea8f93e91782b06499 Items that can be used in Mech Viktor: For the Mech - Titan’s Resolve - If your mech has one of Hand of Justice or Guardian Angel or both I recommend building this item, without either of these items you won’t see much value from Titan’s Resolve until you have a level 5 or 6 mech which means you have 2 star annie rumble and fizz. This item has the potential to be the single strongest item that your mech can use and is worth playing for every game. The downside to this item is that there is zero value in slamming the item early game as it will never hit 50 stacks until you have a mech online. The only time you are looking to potentially not have this item on your mech is if there are many people contesting (a 4+ mech lobby) the reason for this is because this item greatly increases in value the higher level your mech is. Once it hits 50 stacks your mech will 1v9 especially when coupled with a Hand of Justice or Guardian Angel. Hand of Justice - This item is so good worth slamming every game as it works well on early game carries and is really solid on mech. Guardian Angel - Solid item but ONLY place this on your mech if you are certain there will be a Hand of Justice or a Titan’s Resolve with it. Works well with Titan’s because your mech doesn’t lose its Titan’s stacks after its first death and can slap around the enemy team after reviving. Works well with Hand of Justice as it can heal a significant amount of HP post mortem. This item also works really well with rumble as he will oftentimes cast after coming out of the mech and his spell doesn’t go away while reviving. Quicksilver - This item is BiS for mech IF you are unable to complete the trifecta mentioned above. In lobbies with many zephyrs this item can result in insane value, however, with optimal scouting you can sacrifice Ziggs and Cass to the Zephyr gods. The reason I believe this item isn’t as godly as many others make it out to be is the fact that it does absolutely nothing in a number of matchups other than provide 20% dodge. The problem with this item is that it is NOT slammable until you have a mech online. Bramble Vest - One of the strongest items to slam early game. If you take an armor off the starting carousel and are blessed enough to find another by 2-1 you are building this item. TrapClaw - This item is mostly just a 20% dodge stat boost. This item isn’t very slammable early personally, only build if I feel I don’t have any other options. Shroud of Stillness - This item is a 20% dodge stat boost that can turn a fight with optimal positioning. If you build this item you need to scout EVERY round. Relatively slammable early but not on the same tier as bramble. ZZ’rot - You are building this item because you want to win streak early. Neat thing with this item is that you get two voidlings over the course of the fight. Warmog’s Armor - Probably the single strongest early game item in the game, give a protector this item and go afk until stage 4. Ionic Spark - Another very slamable item, if you have a rod and a cloak at any point before krugs it is worth slamming as this item will save you infinite HP. Thieve’s Gloves - This item is a bait on mech. In the past I would play Thief’s Gloves mech as a transition unit while I pivot to a non mech composition. Nowadays I only play mech so don’t recommend giving the mech this item. Not a bad shaco item and once you replace shaco with Ekko he loves it. Itemizing Viktor - Viktor wants a morellonomicon in order to nuke the enemy team’s healing potential along with blue buff or Spear of shojin as viktor should be able to kill the backline in 2-3 spells. If you're considering playing mech here is what you should look to do in each stage: Stage 1: look to grab Armor>Tear>Crit Glove on first carousel units holding these specific items such as armor Malphite/Illaoi or tear Ziggs can be free tickets to winstreaking early. After carousel I try to hold brawlers rebels and infiltrators as I believe it is the strongest opener for mech, however if it is clear that a stronger board is available, such as a 2 star poppy or jarvan while you only have 1 star Illaoi/Malphite, it is worth pivoting to that. On the round that Kayn appears (1-4) I will prelevel which means I buy experience in order to achieve a level 4 shop on 2-1. This is very important as a unit like rumble/shaco/neeko with a belt can win streak the entirety of stage 2. I try to hold on to any Annie I find as I like to hold one whenever possible but it is worth selling her in order to pick up any brawlerebel/infiltrator or to ensure that you can pre level. Stage 2: I attempt to win streak through stage 2 every single game, Viktor Mech and Mech infiltrators are not very item dependent and you can switch between the two depending on what items the game gives you. If you have any of Bramble Vest, Hand of Justice, Guardian Angel, Ionic Spark, Warmogs,blue buff, morellonomicon, or ZZ'rot Portal it is best to slam the item as the Mech can hold any of those items other than bluebuff and morellonomicon and those last 2 items are vital for viktor, Illaoi is a great holder for Mech items and Ziggs/ahri are great holders for Viktor items. On 2-1 play whatever your strongest board is as with any non-hyperroll compositions. On 2-3 before the stage 2 carousel I will prelevel in order to get a level 5 shop on 2-5 post carousel, this is extremely strong for Mech Pilot compositions as it gives you the opportunity to hit a full Mech on stage 2 or other strong early game units like rumble gnar wukong and fizz. In the case that you are on a 2 or 3 loss streak after the stage 2 carousel it is best to attempt a full loss streak in order to maximize early gold, this is the ONLY time that I would ever consider attempting to lose a round. If you are running infiltrators in your early game composition it is extra important to scout EVERY round as the difference between an infiltrator hitting a Ziggs or a 2 star frontliner is winning or losing a fight. Stage 3: This is where a lot of decision making enters the game. If I am winstreaking with a streak of 3 or greater and I will have more than 10 gold after leveling I will level on 3-1. otherwise I will level on 3-2. If I have fizz and rumble by 3-2 and am level 6 I am willing to roll down to 10gold in order to hit an annie. If you roll down this early into the game it is vital that you do not tunnel only on units that go in your final composition, you are not rolling solely to hit a Mech you are rolling to maintain win streak this means that you will look to complete any pairs or to add unit upgrades to your current board. If you roll down and do not upgrade your board at all you will be in a very bad place so it is important to keep a very open mind on what can be thrown in to improve your composition. If I don't roll down on 3-2 I usually do not roll at all unless I am taking a large amount of damage every round in which case it can be a good idea to level to 7 post stage 3 carousel (3-5) and roll some gold to stabilize. If you are rolling it is important to not roll below 10 in stage 3 unless you have a great reason to, such as winstreaking and holding 4-6 pairs while knowing there are opponents that can beat you if you don't hit those upgrades. What to do if you hit early Mech: Mech in stage 3 can be played in many different ways. Most of the time you will sell your frontline and be looking to play Mech + whatever your strongest backliners are which are usually the level 2 units you already had. Ideally you want to have a ziggs and infiltrator or be running 4 sorcs + Mech but it is not vital in stage 3. Stage 4: This is where the decision between Viktor Mech and Mech infiltrators is made. If you are bleeding out and approaching death <40hp 4-1 it is worth leveling to 7 and rolling down to stabilize. Which means you are playing the level 8 board minus ziggs if by some miracle you hit aurelion sol feel free to play zed/ziggs/asol instead of the mystic units. However, in the majority of games you will level to 8 on 4-3 and roll for your board. The 4-3 rolldown (Viktor Mech) - While rolling you are looking to hit this board https://lolchess.gg/buildeset3.5?deck=f6e3df00de7c11ea85825783e5dd3235 it is discussed earlier when to replace units with legendaries. Also I value cass and Karma over Soraka as before the mech dies other units tend to take very little to 0 damage. If you run into a GP Mercenary upgrade in this roll down it is only worth purchasing double strike as they are so expensive. You can stop rolling once you hit the units in the composition and have a level 6 mech (2 star annie rumble and fizz), a 2 star legendary or 2 star Viktor. If you hit any of those requirements with more than 20 gold and are somewhat healthy you can usually go to level 9 later in the game in order to increase your chances at first place. If you hit a 2 star asol and do not have blue buff Asol can replace Viktor at levels 8 and 9. If you hit it is very likely that you will win streak through stage 4 and into stage 5. Stage 5: If you rolled down at level 7 on 4-1 you are leveling to 8 and rolling on 5-1 in a last ditch effort to survive. This rolldown is the same as the standard 4-3 one. If you were able to stop rolling early and have hoarded a large amount of gold, look to go level 9. Only go level 9 if you have at least 30 gold to roll or have more than 15 gold and already hold 1 or more legendary pairs. If you are about to die feel free to roll on 8 in order to complete vital 2 stars which are any mech pilot unit +viktor and shaco. The winconditions for Mech Viktor are good mech items +perfect item 2 star Viktor or Level 9 with 2 star legendaries. The optimal level 9 composition looks like this https://lolchess.gg/buildeset3.5?deck=1c8af8c0de7d11ea8f93e91782b06499 with the option to replace Viktor with urgot 2 and giving the bluebuff to urgot and the morellos to Asol. While it is situational it is almost always better to run a 2 star unit over a 1 star legendary. In the case that you were fortunate enough to find an infiltrator spatula play it on either viktor or gangplank and instead of running Asol play 4 infiltrator level 9: https://lolchess.gg/buildeset3.5?deck=7aa7b960de8511ea9ce08d2f4408daad If you hit either of these level 9 boards with 2 star units it is a 1st unless an opponent has a 3 star 4 cost unit or out positions you really badly. General advice when playing Mech Viktor:
It is optimal to run GA>QSS if you have titan resolve or Hand of justice but you have to scout every round to ensure your mech doesn't get zephyr'd
It is better to have your mech on either side versus the front
Cass and Ziggs should be placed where zephyrs will land, it doesn't matter if they are frontlined because if your mech gets zephyr'd your chances of winning the round are much lower.
When aiming infiltrators make it so Shaco is jumping straight at a carry, for Ekko you want him jumping on the same side that your mech is to ensure that he casts.
Early game focus on itemizing mech and viktor
Late game focuses on grabbing items for your 2 star legendaries. Best in Slot (BiS) for GP - GA, Dcap, Ionic spark (only if mech doesn't have one) Ekko - statikk shiv, rfc, shojin, hoj, runanns. Asol - All damage focused AP items and Hand of Justice.
Always put mech items on rumble as his spell costs the least so he is most likely to cast and get value after the mech has died
Differences between Galaxies Dwarf Planet - Mech is so busted on this galaxy, I have seen Mech compositions hold hands 1-5 multiple times in challenger elo games. Look for titans resolve as if it procs your Mech will hit the backline. Infiltrators are weaker on this map so keep that in mind when building early game boards. Gangplank is also OMEGABUSTED on this galaxy. Neekoverse - I just wanted to thank riot for removing this Galaxy Superdense - I tend to run 4 infiltrator instead of ziggs at level 8. Also if winstreaking you might roll more in stage 3 as any round you win it is likely you're doing an extra 2 damage which puts a lot of pressure on a lobby. Trade Sector - Greatly dislike this galaxy for Mech but never miss the chance to level if you can afford it while winstreaking. Going level 7 right after stage 3 carousel can be the difference between hitting an early legendary or hitting important mech units. Treasure Trove - Not a great galaxy for Mech as you have 4 units in your composition that do not benefit greatly from items (Mystic units and annie/fizz) Also Mech doesn't benefit too greatly by having perfect items so the benefit that other compositions get is much greater. Galactic Armory - Great for pushing early winstreaks. Always look to slam 2 full items before any pvp rounds even begin. Binary Star - Look to take glove or tear on the first carousel. NEED to win streak as mech isn't as strong later in the game. Not as bad for mech as people make it seem but you usually need 2 dodge items (QSS, HOJ, Trapclaw, and shroud of stillness) in order to make your mech survive versus the 4 cyber players in the lobby. Need perfect Viktor items as another issue mech has in this galaxy is the fact that mystic units along with other mech units can't utilize items well. Plunder Planet - Always push levels and try to bully other players around. Anytime you can prevent another player from killing any of your units you are denying them 2-3 gold which is a huge early game. Most of the time you will level to 8 on 4-1 and be 9 in late stage 4 or early stage 5. Can also decide to roll down on 3-5 after stage 5 carousel at level 7 in order to get as much gold as possible off the galaxy and prevent other players from killing units. Everyone spikes really hard in stage 4 on this galaxy. Salvage world - I'm still unsure of this galaxy, I have only played 5 games on this galaxy but in 2 of them I opened with a redbuff ludens lucian with blaster buff that felt really strong. Not as important to run an early game composition that can utilize mech items well. I'm sure I missed some stuff within this guide and will try to answer any questions in the comments over the next few days.
Since 1983, I have lived, worked and raised a family in a progressive, egalitarian, income-sharing intentional community (or commune) of 100 people in rural Virginia. AMA.
Hello Reddit! My name is Keenan Dakota, I have lived at Twin Oaks, an income-sharing, intentional community in rural Virginia for 36 years, since 1983. I grew up in northern Virginia, my parents worked in government. I went to George Mason University where I studied business management. I joined Twin Oaks when I was 23 because I lost faith in the underpinnings of capitalism and looking for a better model. I have stayed because over time capitalism hasn't looked any better, and its a great place to raise children. While at Twin Oaks, I raised two boys to adulthood, constructed several buildings, managed the building maintenance program, have managed some of the business lines at different times. Proof this is me. A younger photo of me at Twin Oaks.Here is a video interview of me about living at Twin Oaks.Photo of Twin Oaks members at the 50th anniversary. Some things that make life here different from the mainstream:
The labor system - all work is considered equal, whether you are earning income for the community or not. Cooking/cleaning counts the same as planning the annual budget. Also, you don't have to do the same job all week - your day can be a mix of indoor and outdoor work, you have freedom to arrange your day, and you can gain skills in a wide array of tasks and trades.
Non-gender binary, queer and trans people are very welcome at Twin Oaks. People introduce themselves with their pronouns and a significant number of our members go by they/them.
Verbal consent culture is very important here. It is not okay to touch anyone without asking.
Nudity and partial nudity is allowed in some parts of the farm, such as in the sauna, swimming hole, on the hiking trails, etc.
Our social norms prohibit using phones in common areas when other members are present, with the exception of a few cafe-style spaces.
Every day we provide a home-cooked, plant-based lunch and dinner with options for special diets including vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, and no onions & garlic.
Raising kids here is easier. Some of the time that parents spend raising their children counts towards their labor quota. Many of the kids are home-schooled or "unschooled", and they spend more time outside than in front of a screen. The kids have no problem passing the state's annual standardized test to move onto the next grade level.
We have a shared clothing resource called Commie Clothes, which is like a free thrift store. Borrow something and then return it dirty, and it gets washed and re-hung up.
More about Twin Oaks: Twin Oaks is an intentional community in rural central Virginia, made up of around 90 adult members and 15 children. Since the community's beginning in 1967, our way of life has reflected our values of cooperation, sharing, nonviolence, equality, and ecology. We do not have a group religion; our beliefs are diverse. We do not have a central leader; we govern ourselves by a form of democracy with responsibility shared among various managers, planners, and committees. We are self-supporting economically, and partly self-sufficient. We are income-sharing. Each member works 42 hours a week in the community's business and domestic areas. Each member receives housing, food, healthcare, and personal spending money from the community. We have open-slots and are accepting applications for new members. All prospective new members must participate in a three-week visitor program. Applicants to join must leave for 30 days after their visit while the community decides on their application. We offer a $5 tour on Saturdays of the property, starting in March. More info here. Ask me anything! TL;DR: Opted out of the rat-race and retired at 23 to live in the woods with a bunch of hippies. EDIT: Thanks for all the questions! If you want some photos of the farm, you can check out our instagram. EDIT2: I'm answering new, original questions again today. Sort by new and scroll through the trolls to see more of my responses. EDIT3: We DO have food with onion & garlic! At meals, there is the regular food, PLUS alternative options for vegan/vegetarian/no gluten/no onions & garlic. EDIT4: Some of you have been asking if we are a cult. No, we are not. We don't have a central leader or common religion. Here are characteristics of cults, FYI. Edit: Yikes! Did I mention that I am 60? Reddit is not my native land. I don't understand the hostile, angry and seemingly deliberately obtuse comments on here. And Soooo many people! Anyway, to the angry crowd: Twin Oaks poses no threat to anyone, we are 100 people out of a country of 330 million? Twin Oaks reached its current maximum population about 25 years ago, so not growing fast, or at all. Members come and go from Twin Oaks. There are, my guess is, 800 ex-members of Twin Oaks, so we aren't holding on to everyone who joins—certainly, no one is held against their will. Twin Oaks is in rural Virginia, but we really aren't insular, isolated, gated or scared of the mainstream culture. We have scheduled tours of the whole property. Local government officials, like building inspectors, come to Twin Oaks with some frequency. People at Twin Oaks like to travel and manage to do so. I personally, know lots of people in the area, I am also a runner, so I leave the property probably every day. There are lots of news stories about Twin Oaks over the years. If you are worried about Twin Oaks, maybe you could go read what the mainstream (and alternative) media have to say. Except about equality Twin Oaks is not particularly dogmatic about anything. (I know some people at Twin Oaks will disagree with that statement.) Twin Oaks isn't really hypocritical about Capitalism, Socialism, or Communism, we just don't identify those concepts as something that we are trying to do. Twin Oaks is not trying to DO Communism, we are trying to live a good life with equally empowered citizens—which has led us to try to maintain economic parity among members. Communists also do that. In making decisions in the community I don't remember anyone trying to support or oppose an idea due to excess or insufficient Communism, Socialism, or Capitalism. In most practical senses those words aren't useful and don't mean anything. So, no need to hammer Twin Oaks for being insufficiently pure, or hypocritical. Twin Oaks is very similar to the Kibbutz in Israel. If anyone has concerns or questions about what would happen if places like Twin Oaks suddenly became much larger and more common, read about the history of the Kibbutz, which may have grown to possibly 1% of the population at their largest? There was and is no fight with Capitalism from the kibbutz—or with the State. My point is—not a threat. To the other people who think that the ideas of Twin Oaks are interesting, I want you to know it is possible to live at Twin Oaks (or places like Twin Oaks) and happily live ones entire life. There is no central, critical failing that makes the idea not work. And plenty of upside. But do lots of research first. Twin Oaks maintains a massive web site. (Anyway, it takes a long time to read.) But what I would like to see is more people starting more egalitarian, income-sharing communities. I think that there is a need for a community that is designed and built by families, and who also share income, and provide mutual support with labor and money. If you love this concept, maybe consider gathering together other people and starting your own. Ideologically speaking: -Ecology: the best response to ecological problems is for humans to use fewer resources. The easiest way to use fewer resources is to share resources. Living communally vastly cuts down on resource use without reducing quality of life. -Equality: ideologically speaking, most people accept the idea that all humans have equal rights, but most social structures operate in ways that are fundamentally unequal. If we truly believe in equality then we ought to be willing to put our bodies where our ideology is. In a truly equal world, the issues of sexism and racism and all other forms of discrimination would, essentially, not exist. -Democracy: Twin Oaks uses all manner of decision-making models and tools to try to include everyone and to keep people equally empowered. There is no useful word for this. We do use a majority vote sometimes, as a fallback. But sometimes we use consensus. We sometimes use sociocracy (dynamic governance). The word "Isocracy" (decision-making among equals), would be useful to describe Twin Oaks' decision-making model, but Lev in Australia has written an incomprehensible "definition" on Wikipedia, that he keeps changing back when someone corrects it. -Happiness: The overarching goal of all ideologies is to make people happy, right? I mean, isn't it? Capitalism is based upon the belief that motivation is crucial to human aspiration and success (and therefore more happiness). Under Capitalism, equality is a detriment because it hinders motivation (less fear of failure, or striving for success). Twin Oaks believes that humans are happier when they are equal, and equally empowered. So the place to start up the ladder of happiness is to first make everyone equal. Well, Twin Oaks is mainly still working on that first step. EDIT5: Some have asked about videos - here are links to documentaries about Twin Oaks by BBC, VICE and RT.
Bug Fables is Paper Mario TTYD but a little better AND a little worse - and that's high praise!
Lil intro: So Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling is an indie game, put together by Panamanian dev duo Moonsprout Games, to follow the legacy of the original two Paper Mario games. Now as someone who would name Paper Mario 2 in my top 5 games since it came out in 2004, I'm happy to report Bug Fables is an excellent successor to that legacy and the few negative comparisons that can be made seem to me to be the result of the difference in scale of available resources between Nintendo and Moonsprout. The prologue and first chapter introduce the explorers league and the three main characters who enlist together to further their own goals, which are given time to gestate while the world and characters are established. The player characters, a standard trio of an honour-bound knight, a feisty rogue, and a dry humoured, aloof mage, are tasked with adventuring across the lands of Bugaria to collect MacGuffins by the Ant Queen's royal blade Maki. This typical plotline is interrupted and diverted in interesting ways, and the trio of different attitudes keep the dialogue fresh. It's especially nice to see the trio's dynamic shifting as they grow closer. All this to say the writing is about on par with Paper Mario 2, what it lacks in (comparative!) charm it makes up with in coherence. The better: There's a lot in this game that could be pulled pretty directly from its inspirations, but in many cases those ideas have been reinterpreted to suit Bug Fable's setting, characters, and unique aspects. This starts with the three main characters allowing a good amount of customization via levelups and badges, which in turn allows for a large variety of strategies to be employed in combat. This is improved by Bug Fables excellent badge selection; very few (often expensive) badges only add power and most badges include trade-offs or otherwise incentivize normally unusual strategies. This deeply strengthens the customization by eliminating the obvious choices for all situations that the Paper Mario games had. Another large improvement was the use of the trio with the Tattle function, allowing every NPC, enemy, and room to be an opportunity for optional characterization between the teammates. Comparatively, in the Paper Mario games this characterization was limited to Goombario and Goombella, with cutscenes being the only chance other partners could be characters at all - often interchangeably. Often in Bug Fables I would extend a boss fight just so I could hear each of the trio's reaction to the enemy. Beyond that, many features just seem so much more streamlined than in the Paper Marios: the transit systems fit better into the world and were available sooner though money-gated early on to preserve difficulty, the game economy was balanced to allow for resource scarcity or exploitation without either being tedious as well as having purchases worth saving up for, and a lot of freedom in where and how to travel is given remarkably early on which allows for certain items or badges to be rushed. Best of all, a lot of the lore, world building, and characterization is optional, allowing for uninterested players, replayers, or speedrunners to bypass many walls of text. So many features like these struck me as something a dev would include in a post-release patch, and they make the game much smoother to play. Lastly, the biggest improvement for me was the difficulty: after the first battle a zero cost Hard Mode badge becomes an option, which keeps the battles threatening til lategame. This is such an important improvement as it turns the early game into a resource balancing act, which encourages thoughtful battling, using the cooking system, and creating badge builds. Unlike in Paper Mario, items are relevant all game long with the best items being simple, if expensive, cooked items that won't win fights on their own. Also, superblocking reduces damage by 1 more than blocking, removing the binary "all or nothing" aspect of superguarding. The only times combat felt unfair was when one enemy had an unpreventable, single target status effect which twice caused me to lose by unluckily targeting my buffed bug, and another when a rapid shot status ailment attack one-shot my tank after a marathon of battling. Additional difficulty options are also available, tho I haven't play around with them yet. The worse: The "in the field" controls are somewhat finicky, especially when the camera angle in large or curved rooms adjusts as you move. Additionally, most field skills are usable 360 degrees around the leading character, as opposed to Mario skills which usually are restricted to Mario's direct left or right. This can lead to some spatial confusion, as positioning 2D character models to use 2D animations in a 3D environment can be frustrating - dodging enemy shots while trying to engage in combat comes to mind. This is also true of several platforming puzzles; solving the puzzle was frequently much easier than executing the solution. While this was barely an issue that took longer than a minute, I could see how it could be frustrating, especially without certain badges. I also felt that a lot of the decorations in areas could have questionable physics models. Poking around behind foreground or midground items could feel awkward, as their meshes sometimes didn't feel like what the graphics reflected - especially when the item was large enough for the backside of the object to have to be assumed. Lastly, some of the side content felt unfleshed-out: interesting characters used for a single fetch quest or function, cool side areas with a single purpose, or just unused potential like a sea with two islands. Add to this that the enemy variety was good for the story (exactly one instance of palate swaps, and one area of mostly reused enemies) but lacking for side areas, and my biggest problem with the game is there isn't slightly more of it. Also: The music is consistently great, with very few songs not memorably contributing to an area/event's mood. Midway thru the game, the battle music changes to reflect the upped stakes and that's just great. Snakemouth Den and several boss tracks being standouts for me. Conclusion: With Bug Fables being an indie dev game as well as a first release its possible the 1.1 patch and/or DLC could change some of the rougher parts, but even besides this it is a solidly great game within the genre. With a bit of sequel baiting sprinkled into the endgame, I'm very impressed by Moonsprout and I may actually change my Sticker Star created rule to never, ever preorder once Bug Fables 2 is announced. If the improvement between this game and its sequel is as big as between the Paper Marios, it could easily be my favourite game of all time.
Many people who get interested in guns and start shooting soon find out that there are a number of shooting sports out there. A lot of those shooters wonder whether that kind of shooting is for them. Maybe they’re not good enough? Maybe it’s only for the really hard core shooters? Maybe it’s super expensive? Maybe you have to be invited, or know a member of the club, or be former military? Do you have to be a really competitive person to enjoy it? Should you delay getting into the game until you are “good enough”? This post is intended to answer some of those questions. The short answer is that if you’ve been shooting long enough to safely handle a gun around others, know how to generally operate your firearm(s), and can hit where you are aiming at least some of the time, you can start playing shooting sports. At least in the United States, that is – the barriers can be higher in some other countries. But there are robust competitive shooting communities in a lot of countries around the world, including most of western Europe and other places you might not expect. Let’s run down some of the reasons people delay or avoid trying their hand at a gun game.
• I’m worried I’m not good enough.” Good enough to WHAT? To win? You’re NOT. Not good enough to WIN against people who have been playing these games for years. But that’s OK. Nobody would expect a new guy or gal to show up and win. What competitive shooters care about in terms of the new participant is: safety; attitude; safety; willingness to learn and help; and safety. OK, you get it. By and large, when a new shooter shows up to a match/game/field/whatever, the existing players don’t wonder “how good is he going to be?” They wonder “how safe is he going to be?” If you are a safe gun handler, you’re about 85% of the way home. If you’re interested in learning about the game, generally pleasant to be around, and, if needed, willing to lend a hand to keep the match going, chances are really, really good you will be welcome REGARDLESS of how you shoot. • “I just want to wait until I’m a little better.” Guess what? No matter how long you wait (or practice on your own), you’re probably not going to get good enough to show up and dominate out of the gate. Do you think you’ll get better faster by practicing alone, in isolation, with no learning sources except youtube and a subreddit? Or by meeting lots of really experienced shooters, getting to watch what they do up close, getting to ask questions of them, getting objective feedback on how you’re doing, etc.? Right, the latter. Wherever your shooting skill is right now, if you start competing tomorrow, you’ll be a better shooter this time next year than if you wait and start competing in a year. • “I’m not really a competitive person, and I don’t like super competitive people, trash talking, people trying to wager, etc.” Don’t worry. A lot of people who shoot the gun games do it because they LOVE TO SHOOT and gun games offer the most interesting shooting challenges… not because they feel the need to dominate others. There are actually relatively few intensely competitive people in many of the gun games – and they’re not going to be trying to flex on the new guy or gal. Sometimes you’ll overhear some good natured ribbing among friends, but shooting sports people are overwhelmingly encouraging to others while being very hard on THEMSELVES. There are lots of people who have shot for years and never won a darn thing. But they’ve made a lot of friends, learned a lot, had a lot of good times, etc. Competitive outcomes are secondary for a LOT of people. • “I’m worried it’s too expensive.” OK, this one does have a tiny kernel of truth, depending on the game. There are a small number of gun games where even the entry level gear is pretty expensive, but in most gun games the gear is either not that impactful on outcomes or there are equipment divisions that keep things under control and create some relatively inexpensive options. If you’ve got a service-grade/field-grade gun, chances are good there’s some game you can use it in where you’re not just taking a tricycle to a motocross rally. The more significant aspect is that people who get into gun games tend to shoot a lot. You will find shooting in games is more fun than static range work, so you’ll want to shoot matches. You’ll also want to improve (and you’ll have good ideas and information about how to do it), so you’ll want to practice more. It varies by game, but if you fall down the rabbit hole on, for example, USPSA, you might end up shooting 10,000 rounds in a year and be far from the highest-volume shooter in your immediate circle! But that’s self-directed/driven. If you can afford to shoot 500 rounds a month for the pistol games or the shotgun games, or half or a quarter of that for the accuracy-oriented rifle games, you can play and make progress. But you will end up spending more on ammo. That’s one reason so many competitive shooters take up reloading! • “I’m worried my gear isn’t legal.” Possibly. But it’s probably legal for some game, or can be traded for other gear that is legal. Although plenty of people get into competitive shooting and end up buying specialized competition gear (guns and other stuff), most gun games don’t have a whole lot of crazy rules designed to keep people OUT. Most of the gear rules are to control stuff that would be a competitive advantage, not set some minimum floor of baller-ness. In my preferred game (USPSA), you can rock a Hi-Point if you want… but not a binary trigger. • “Do I have to be invited?” In the United States, generally the answer is no. Most of the more popular games are open to anyone who pays the appropriate match or other fees, agrees to abide by the rules, is legally allowed to possess firearms, etc. That goes even for a lot of matches that are held at otherwise-private, member’s-only facilities. The national governing organization for most of the sports will help you find local matches/events and contact information for the people who run them. You can then easily email, call, or message those local folks, and they’ll be happy to tell you if the match is open to the general public – chances are very, very good it is, and that they will want you to come! • “I’m worried I won’t like anyone, and they won’t like me.” There are no guarantees, but the minute you show up, you’ve got a big plus in your column – you’re also someone interested in guns and maybe the game everyone else there already loves. In most of the gun games, there is quite a bit of standing around and talking, and you’ll get to know people quickly – but because there is a game going on, there’s no painful small talk. You can just talk about the sport! It’s super easy social interaction, even for introverts. “I’m worried it will just make going to the square/lane range kind of boring by comparison.” That one’s true, just like scuba diving the great barrier reef makes swimming laps in the pool kinda boring. So if those are the big reasons for people not to try shooting sports, what are the reasons to try it? • It will make you a better shooter. • It will make you a safer shooter. • You will almost surely make new friends. • It will launch you on a new hobby and journey of discovery. “Eh, I’m still on the fence.” OK. Go watch one of the gun games. Most of the sports are perfectly happy to have people watch a match and talk to participants. These aren’t really big spectator sports, but most of us will gladly explain what’s going on, what gear you need, the basics of the rules, etc., to someone who shows up and is just curious. “OK, that sounds kind of interesting in the abstract… how do I know which game to try?” That’s another post. If people want it, I’ll be happy to post that, too, in a few days.
Electrician / Foreman at a Union Shop (Minneapolis, MN USA)
Salary: $97,000 Years of experience: 8.0 Recommended Education: Apprenticeship
What’s a day in the life for an electrician?
I’m a foreman, which is a much different role then if I was still a journeyman electrician. As a foreman, it’s more managing than electrical work. My goal is to make project managers happy, keep everyone focused (so the customer is satisfied), make sure our shop is making money, and deliver something that I can be proud to stand by. The electricians beside me need to be enjoying their day; otherwise, they will resent me and put in sub-par work. Part of what I do is to try and keep things interesting, so my team doesn’t lose interest. I do this by giving guys responsibility, because there’s pride associated with everything they do, or when things are more mundane, creating competitions. The best thing about being a journeyman is that when you go home, you don’t have to think about work AT ALL. When you wake up, you don’t think about work; even when you drive to the job site, you don’t have to fire up your brain until the clock starts. But, as soon as you start working, you’re in a different world, and none of the problems from your home life consume you because you’re too busy problem solving, you’re dealing with something different every couple hours. On a typical day, you wake up early as hell and drive to your job site. The site might be a mudhole, or it might be a nice parking garage, but it changes every couple of months, you’re never in the same situation. For example, let’s say I get assigned to work at General Mills at a factory assembly line with some issues and have to work on it for three days. That might be a casual experience where they have prints, plans, and diagrams to look at, and you follow the instructions and install it. Or, you might be working for that customer and BOOM, an entire assembly line goes down, which prevents thousands of chocolate bars from being made. You now have workers standing there, and your job is to get that line fired back up, quickly. You need to be able to walk into that environment and figure out how to approach it safely. I go through a mental checklist: turn the power off, determine what’s feeding it, find the electric room, what kind of equipment is needed, how many motors there are, what caused the problem, isolate the source, etc. At some point, you go on auto-pilot, and your brain solves the issue. There’s also more thought to it; you need to quickly determine if you can fix it today, how soon you can get the part, whether there’s a temporary solution, or whether you have enough knowledge to fix it.
What’s the best part of being an electrician?
Don’t be afraid to try it; once most people get into the work, they end up liking the profession a lot more than they ever expected. The variety of backgrounds I see seems to be increasing; this includes first-generation Americans, people looking for new careers later in life, and many more women. There’s a lot of job stability, and it’s something that isn’t going away because there’s a huge need. You’ll challenge yourself physically and mentally, and will likely receive opportunities you would never see elsewhere. If you have a lot of ambition, it can be your passion, but it also doesn’t have to be. When you’re starting, you need to push through your training until you’re able to get your license. Once you get your license, you can’t have it taken away, and there’s a lot of freedom that comes with it, so it’s worth sticking it out.
What’s the downside of being an electrician? Words of caution?
For most people trying to get into the trades, I recommend thinking about the long-term implications. Don’t go after the first big paycheck you get offered; if the situation isn’t what you’re looking for, keep looking. Also, you need to be continually aware of what you’re doing, attentive, and present to the task. You learn to be hyper-focused. If you’re looking to get experience and you can’t get into a union program, there’s no problem working non-union. If you’re going to be a non-union worker, you have to have more ambition; you have to be more confrontational, vouch for yourself, ask your employer for more, and there’s no one backing you with negotiated contracts. If you want an excellent education that’s varied and hope to prevent yourself from getting into dangerous situations, the union might be the way to go. Non-union, there’s no curriculum, and you have to do additional research. All things aside, there are some great non-union workers out there. You can do it if you have the drive and determination. If you’re somebody who has no mechanical aptitude, doesn’t like to spend your free time figuring out how things work, or you’re afraid to fix something that’s broken, it might take you a while to enjoy being an electrician. You might still be good at it, but it might not come naturally. You need to have a strong work ethic if you want to have consistent employment and want to be a good electrician. You don’t need to be a perfectionist, but you need to try and do your best.
Describe the path you took to become an electrician
Before I started, I had a vague idea of what trade work looked like, and I tried to visualize myself as one of “those guys.” I wasn’t necessarily thinking, “do I like electricity?” or “do I want to work on electrical hazards?” I figured I could probably do it and gave it a try. Many people expect that if you’re blue-collar and your parents are blue-collar, then you’re the next candidate to be a trades worker. But, that’s an outdated idea. Most people don’t get into the trades because they want a high income, but when you tell anyone how much you make, they’re generally surprised. Because there’s such a demand for electricians, there’s limited space in apprentice training programs. As a result, there are many pre-apprentice (or unindentured apprentice) training programs emerging to ensure that the people who get accepted are likely to see it through. How much pre-apprentice work you need is location dependent (usually 6-24 months), so if you want to get in without this, you may need to research various states or cities. I completed six months of pre-apprentice work and was able to sign up because you no longer needed to complete the full two-year program. Due to high demand (in Minneapolis), they lifted the requirement so long as you could pass their interviews and entrance exams. Once you’re accepted, you have five years of apprenticeship. Each year brings a different program, a pay increase, and every six months, they switch you to a new contractor. Some of the content included learning various installations, people skills, safety, bending pipe, physics/math, high voltage, DC/AC theory, ladder logic, binary, national/state code, etc. But, the biggest thing is learning how to problem-solve, which goes well beyond the codebook. You get a taste for more technical aspects, but you can also really dive into topics like programmable logic controllers, solar, building automation, data, etc. There are lots of certifications for each of these, and in the end, they prepare you very well to take the state exam for the journeyman license. Starting as an apprentice allows you to make money right away. In my first year, I started at $15/hour, which doesn’t include your perks: paid vacation, pension, annuity, an unemployment slush fund, full health coverage for family, etc. Fast forward to today, I make $48.50/hour as a foreman or $46.50/hour as a journeyman. The pay rates are standardized through the union by location. What’s most in-demand right now is for low voltage and inside wireman, which is what I am. But, where you end up depends on your ambition and what you want to do. A lot of guys are content just being a worker; they don’t mind being laid off or moving from contractor to contractor. My preference is to work for a contractor that I like; I work hard to have that security. In terms of options, you can be a journeyman, a foreman, a general foreman (required when you exceed a specific crew size), or a master electrician (requires 2,000 hours of additional work and a master’s license). As a master electrician, you’re likely to get paid more, but you’re bonded to the shop, so you may not do much electrical work, and you will take all the heat if things go wrong.
What’s the future outlook for an electrician?
Since COVID hit, our shop has had to adapt by taking on less profitable jobs; doing this allows our best guys to keep working and stay engaged. For example, we just did a sizable solar rooftop installation, where the work was mostly outside in a safe environment versus a busy construction site. If things start to change, and people don’t want to invest in new commercial buildings, there’s always going to be a need to build homes, apartments, hospitals, schools, or facilities that need constant maintenance. The trades might take bites and hits along the way, but if you’re reasonably smart with your finances, you’ll be able to make it through any tough times, which I’ve never really seen. If need be, I could always find low voltage or travel to where the work is. I know several guys who went to Australia to improve the electric grid and help train locals. The scenario is a little extreme, but there are always opportunities. Ultimately, technology isn’t going to slow down; electrical equipment will always get better, faster, cheaper, and more efficient. Electrical work is nearly impossible to automate, so that can be a good thing if you’re coming from an industry that’s in decline.
If you’re trying to change careers, analyze the things you don’t like about your position now, because if you’re not coming from a trade, you could be in for a big surprise. I’ve observed that service workers who work in fast-paced environments and do a lot of multitasking do very well. You have to enjoy physical work; you have to be willing to work in many different environmental conditions, whether that’s filthy outdoor dirt, extreme temperatures, hot and cold, uncomfortable positions, etc. You have to be able to see the bigger picture so that your work doesn’t become mundane. Job/Career Demand - 5.0 Positive Impact - 4.0 Satisfaction - 4.5 Advancement/Growth - 4.0 Creativity - 4.5 Work-Life Balance - 4.7 Compensation & Benefits - 5.0 Work Environment - 4.0 --- For anyone with questions, I am unfortunately not the writer of this content. We are working on building messaging capabilities on our website, which will hopefully be live in a couple of months. If there are any urgent questions, I can reach out to my friend directly :)
Sympathy for the Drow - De-Vilifying the Dark Elves
The "Evil" races in DnD have always rubbed me kinda the wrong way. Partly once I learned that a lot of them come from racist stereotypes (Orcs, Drow, and Goblins in particular) and also just because it doesn't make sense to me. Even Nazi Germany had variation and dissenters and it only lasted for 12 years. Why would a clearly evil society never change over hundreds of years? In my opinion, a story is only as good as it's villains. So, I've set out to try and make the traditionally evil races slightly more believable and even sympathetic in places. Now, I've not been a DM very long, only like three years. But the first campaign I ever ran was through Curse of Strahd which paints the Vistani (an itinerant society heavily based on the real world Romani) as a conniving group of thieves, murders, and vampire-worshipers. Thankfully, I found through reddit and other sites how to steer away from the racists depictions of the Vistani and making them seem like, at worst, opportunists. So, I hope to be able to do that with some other of the classic DnD antagonist races. I've read some other phenomenal post on here about evil races that totally inspired me as well. There's a great twopart post about Decolonizing D&D which I adore. The post about alignment is easily my favorite. There's a couple great ones on Orcs and Yuan-Ti too so if some of my ideas are lifted from them, I hope y'all consider it flattery instead of theft. So, here are some primer notes before I get into it. For creating the Dark Elves, I tried to keep as much as I could from the books. Obviously some stuff has to get thrown out the window though. I also tried to standardize calling them Dark Elves instead of Drow partly because I feel like Drow has a much nastier sound to it and calling them Dark Elves follows the naming convention with the High and Wood Elves. I tried to model them after real-life matriarchal societies like the Mosuo people of China and their pantheon after real deities like the Greeks, Romans, and Norse. I also quickly realized that building a society is inseparable from geography. Where a people are from effects their language, values, mythology, history, and family structure. I've tried to outline details I think are necessary to making this society realistic while leaving it open ended enough to be place-able in different worlds with relative ease. All that aside, lets get into the meat of it.
The Dark Elves: Elven Outcasts
The Elves are a varied and magical people that come from many planes and many environments within them. But none are met with more distrust and fear than the Dark Elves. Easily set apart from their cousins by their charcoal or pitch-black skin, pink-red eyes, hair of grays and whites, and shorter stature, these people have earned a reputation as killers, thieves, demon worshipers, and liars. But history is a cruel mistress, something the Dark Elves know better than most.
The Divine Divide
As the legends go, when the world was still young, Corellon Larethian lived on the Plane of Arvandor with his fellow Primal Elves. They were wild and mutable, emotional and free in all things. They changed shapes at will, gave and took freely to and from the world, and never stayed in any location too long. They wandered to and fro, scattering their peoples across almost every plane. However, this unbridled freedom was not without a price. Arguments, feuds, and small scale wars were incredibly common between them. Some elves would find themselves stranded on far off planes after most of their companions impulsively decided to leave. Their self serving impulses drove them to often completely disregard the needs or wants of others if they went against their own desires. And their reckless revelry was wreaking havoc on the natural world with Elven parties decimating whole planes of edible plants, wild game, and drinkable water. One such Primal Elf began to see the destruction of their ways and talked to other elves about their actions. Slowly, this Elf by the name of Lolth amassed a small following of devotees that saw the negative ramifications of their inconsiderate freedom. Lolth and her followers agreed to take on fixed forms to show recognition of the dangers that impulsivity could bring. Lolth led this small group of devotees to Corellon to ask for his support. Now, Corellon did not lead these Primal Elves: he was just as wild as the best of them and did not take kindly to others telling him what to do. But he was the First Elf ever born and was universally respected amongst the Primal Elves and if Lolth could convince him, others would surely follow. Corellon listened to her proposition and agreed that they should change to prevent more destruction and conflict, but refused to order his kinsfolk into any action. He was an Elf, same as all of them, and he wouldn’t dare order around his family. He balked when Lolth asked him to take a concrete form as a show of solidarity and brushed her off as a killjoy. Lolth was unsatisfied with this outcome and her following set out to convince each Elf to change their ways to preserve the beauty of the worlds. However, without the support of Corellon, many elves refused her offer. Her anger grew with each failure and her opinion of Corellon turned sour, something she made no attempt to hide from her Elven siblings. Now, Corellon is a proud god and once he caught wind that Lolth was bad mouthing him in an attempt to win over others, he became enraged. He railed against Lolth calling her a snake-tongued thief and Lolth called him incompetent and cruel. Their tempers flared and all the elves chose sides between Corellon’s freedom and Lolth’s stability. During this great debate, the Primal Elves turned to violence. The Dark Elves maintain that Corellon’s side threw the first blow, while the High Elves claim that it came from Lolth’s side. No matter the source, this violent outburst soured relations between Lolth and Corellon forever after. He cast her and her followers out of Arvandor and barred her from ever returning. He also cast all but his most trusted kin from Arvandor, forcing them all to live lives on other worlds out of fear of another perceived insurrection. Thus, the Seldarine remain in Arvandor to judge the souls of Corellon’s faithful when they die and Lolth takes refuge in Arcadia with her pantheon where she minds the souls of the Drow. Corellon’s faithful call her pantheon the Dark Seldarine, while her faithful call it the Myrkalfar.
Myrkalfar: The Spider Mother’s House
Lolth the Spider Queen is the unquestioned head of the Myrkalfar, with all other deities seen as her divine family. Lolth is considered at times to be fickle or even cruel, but her ire is never gained without good reason. A very involved deity, her followers constantly search for signs of her favor or scorn in everyday life. When a Dark Elf contemplates a risky or controversial decision, they consult priestesses or perform their own rites which often gives them direct and succinct answers. She serves as an example to matriarchs of Drow families as demanding yet understanding, punishing yet guiding. She asks for a lot of her priestesses, demanding they be an unflinching example of everything a strong leader should be. The Myrkalfar is often presented as a divine household, with Lolth as the matron. Keptolo is the consort of Lolth and considered to be the ideal of what a male should be. Beautiful and kind, strong and hard working, he helps Lolth in everything she does. Sometimes he serves as a messenger, other times as an agent of redemption, sometimes as a divine healer. When a Dark Elf is tasked with a divine charge, he is usually the one to deliver the message and guide them through their charge. He serves also as a fertility deity and is often worshiped by women or men seeking a child. Outsiders see him as a weak and subservient husband to Lolth, but his faithfulness to his matron is considered a virtue and his status as a “husband” is relatively alien to the Dark Elves as they have no binding marriage in their society. If Keptolo is the agent of Lolth’s mercy, Kiaransalee is the agent of her vengeance. She is the eldest daughter of Lolth and Keptolo and one that Dark Elves pray to when they feel wronged. Only the most binding and serious contracts are signed under her name. To break an oath made under her name is sure to bring destruction. She is also the governor of the dead, judging the souls of those passed in the afterlife. She opposes the mindless undead created by mortals, but spirits and revenants that return to finish unresolved business amongst the living are considered under her protection. Should a Dark Elf encounter a returned spirit that is seeking vengeance, it’s their duty to leave them on their way and pray that the spirit isn’t there for them. This reverence of certain undead is something many outsiders consider downright evil. Selvetarm is the Dark Elven warrior goddess and youngest daughter of Lolth. Often depicted with eight arms, she represents the pinnacle of hand to hand martial prowess, but often is without restraint. She serves as both an inspiration for warriors, and a warning. Vhaeraun is the eldest son of Lolth and governs ambition and stealth. Both of these traits are not necessarily vilified, but worship of him is highly scrutinized. Haughty and rash, tales of him often include deceiving his fellow gods for good and ill and more often than not are cautionary ones. He’s depicted as wearing a mask, either as some punishment for endangering Lolth and her family or to hide his identity for various schemes, possibly both. Malyk is Lolth’s youngest son and a youthful deity of change and growth. He’s often seen as a bouncing young boy that Lolth and her family have to reign in from wild misadventures. His freedom and curiosity is often seen as a double edged sword, both gaining him great riches but also putting him in tremendous peril. He has strong ties to sorcerers and when a child is born with innate magical talent, he is often the one thanked for it. He serves as an outlet for a Dark Elves youthful chaotic nature, but also warns them of the ramifications of their actions. Ghaunadur is a strange figure in the pantheon. Their place in the family is a bit of a mystery, sometimes called the sibling of Lolth, or her child, or even as Lolth’s parent. What makes them truly unique is that they are a formless deity, something that Lolth once warred with Corellon over. The legends go that when Ghaunadur joined Lolth, they refused to give up their changeable nature. When questioned, Ghaunadur pointed to the slimes, oozes, and formless creatures of the world and said that they wished to protect them from the Elves and the Elves from them. Lolth agreed, cementing their position as the deity of the changing forms of nature. Their favored creature is the ooze, but they govern all natural creatures. Dark Elves often pray to Ghaunadur to protect them from the creatures that lurk in the depths of the forest. Zinzerena is Lolth’s sister and is the goddess of poisons, illusions, and magic. Viewed as an elderly and patient figure, she often serves as council to Lolth in desperate times. She’s said to be the mother of all poisons and venoms and her teachings are all about finding the wisest solution to a problem. Zinzerena teaches that even though the spider is small, it’s bite can still fell a panther. Despite her perceived age, she’s considered the younger sister of Lolth and is thought to be incredibly quick and nimble: a reminder that not everything is as it seems. Eilistraee is Lolth’s niece and daughter of Zinzerena. Considered the black sheep of the pantheon, she serves as a goddess of redemption and moonlight. Dark Elves that turn their back on their family or scorn traditions will sometimes find themselves turned to Driders, half-spider half-Dark Elf creatures shunned by all. Eilistraee is said to watch over these creatures and if they are repentant, offer them challenges that they could complete to redeem themselves. Lolth often views her with contempt or mistrust, but never hates her and maintains her place in the pantheon. Dark Elven faithful rarely worship her as the others. She’s also one of the only deities of the Myrkalfar to claim no animosity toward the Seldarine and their faithful. Spiders are the sacred animal of Lolth and are often used as an example of social order and the importance of family bonds. Each strand of silk serves the web as whole. More literally, the giant spiders of the Underdark are multifaceted and incredibly useful creatures. Serving as beasts of burden, war steeds, meat producers, household guardians, and silk producers, they are present in almost every facet of society. Their silks are used in everything from wound dressings to armor to architecture. To kill or steal another family's spider is considered akin to stealing a member of the family. Smaller and more poisonous spiders are often kept in temples and their webs are used as divining tools for priestesses.
The recorded history of the Dark Elves is full of contradictions from High Elf and Dark Elf sources. What historians can agree on is when the Elves of the Prime Material arrived, the followers of Lolth secluded from their Wood and High cousins and retreated into the Azelarien, also known as the Green Sea in Common. A massive forest, nearly 1 million square miles of dense and vibrant trees, that grows denser and darker the farther in one ventures. For countless eons, the High, Wood, and Dark Elves lived in relative harmony in their own corner of the world. High Elves lived near the forests in towns and villages, the Wood Elves lived in the lightly forested outlands of the Green Sea, and the Dark Elves lived deep in the central forests which was so dense that very little light reached the forest floor. As time passed and their villages turned to cities, the High Elves began expanding into the forest, chopping some down to build homes and heat their furnaces. This began pushing into the territory of the Wood Elves and eventually the Dark Elves as well. These two peoples formed a shaky alliance to push back the expansive tide of the far larger High Elven armies. This alliance proved successful however and the High Elven forces began losing ground. What happened next is a matter of some debate. High Elven historians attest that the Dark Elven armies used Wood Elven soldiers as unwitting bait to lure the High Elven armies into a trap, thus causing a schism between them. Dark Elven historians state that the Wood Elven armies turned on them after the Wood Elves met in secret with High Elven leaders and bargained for their independence. Some Wood Elven historians claim that after a brutal defeat on the field, they were met by High Elven dignitaries that offered them clemency if they turned on their allies. They initially refused, but after the dignitaries threatened to make the same offer to the Dark Elves, they had no choice but to accept. No matter the cause, the histories agree that the Wood Elves turned on their erstwhile allies and helped push the Dark Elves into a rapid loss of ground. Facing the might of the two armies with their own relatively small one, the Dark Elves were beaten into a hasty retreat into their own territory. Losing every open encounter, the Dark Elf matrons developed a new strategy of combat. The armies switched from training as many as quickly as they could, to training only a select few in multiple different forms of combat and magic. As the High and Wood Elves advanced into their territory, they quickly found their supply lines cut out from under them, their soldiers ambushed while sleeping, their scouts captured, and their leaders assassinated. And even if they would make it to a Dark Elf settlement, they would find it abandoned and booby-trapped, warned by their fast and silent scouts. If the Dark Elves couldn’t face their enemies head-on, they would weaken them with quick and decisive strikes. Eventually, the war ground to a stalemate. The High Elves couldn’t push into the Dark Elf territory far enough to capture any cities of note without taking severe casualties and the Dark Elves were only managing to hold the invading armies back and couldn’t muster a force strong enough to push back to the enemy capital. Thus, the war cooled into a tense peace. The leaders came together to draw borders, but neither side fully forgave nor forgot one another’s actions. High and Wood Elves viewed the change in tactics by the Dark Elves as an unethical violation of the standards of war. The Dark Elves felt a particular animosity toward the Wood Elves, considering them backstabbers in their darkest hour.
Dark Elf Families: Matrons of Order
The Dark Elf society, to an outsider, looks like an oppressive and cruel society of slave traders and backstabbers. But the truth is more subtle. The Dark Elves value tradition and filial piety above almost all else. To a Dark Elven citizen, their family name is their most valuable possession and they are taught from a very young age that to look after their parents and their younger siblings is the highest virtue. Ancestors that have achieved great things often have shrines in a household alongside the gods themselves. A Dark Elf going against the will of their family is considered one of the highest taboos and often causes them to be outcast from Dark Elven society as a whole. Dark Elf society is matrilineal meaning that the eldest woman in each family is revered as the household leader and receives great respect from her family and society. This also means that the males of the society don’t inherit wealth as frequently as the females. Dark Elven families are quite large, often with multiple generations along with aunts, uncles, and cousins living in the same household. New children almost always reside with their mother. Males of the society are expected to care not for their own biological children, but for the children born to their sisters, aunts, or nieces. This results in a striking amount of sexual freedom for both men and women, but is often viewed from the outside as promiscuity. The Dark Elves do not marry in the traditional sense, instead favoring long term partners with one another that can end at any time with no concerns to material wealth or ownership. However, to become a member of a Dark Elf family is not entirely a matter of heritage. When a family that cannot support another child has one, they are often adopted by more well to do families and raised as one of their own. These adopted children are considered just as legitimate as if they were born into the family. Also, should a family lose all their heirs or become destitute, they often ask to become assimilated into other families for their own safety. The latter is considered a morose ceremony as the members of the smaller family forsake their surnames. To take in such a family is both an extreme honor and grim burden, as it means ending another family's line. The borders of Dark Elven civilization only goes so far as there are trees so many newer up and coming families have expanded underground, a difficult and slow endeavor. This has put multiple houses at odds with one another for territory. However, Dark Elves do not tolerate open hostility between families as they have a very strong sense of collective identity. Dark Elves do not war against fellow Dark Elves, same as a spider does not fight its own web. This leads to many tensions and conflicts needing to be resolved in other ways. Most families will attempt a diplomatic solution, but when that isn’t an option, sabotage and coercion is the favored outlet. Murder is considered a bridge too far by most houses, but subterfuge in almost every other facet is, while not accepted, tolerated. Legends of Lolth’s rebellion and the tension of their enclosed territory have imbued the Dark Elves with a strong sense of symbiosis with nature and conservancy. Sustainable living is the cornerstone of Dark Elf society. In the wild, no creature is killed or plant destroyed unless it’s a matter of self defense or necessary to survival.
Dark Elven Sex and Gender
As with many Elven peoples, sexuality is seen as a fluid and non-binary matter. Same sex relationships are usually seen as just as acceptable as male-female relationships. Since Dark Elves have no marriage structure, same sex life partners are common and widely accepted. Inheritance is passed along by the family as a whole, not linearly, meaning some houses may have matrons with no direct biological descendants while still serving at the elder matron. Power dynamics in relationships are still a factor, with the elder female in a gay relationship considered slightly above their partner socially and is seen as the inheritor in cases of property or genealogy. Male same sex relationships are accepted with little controversy. Since children are passed down their mothers line, the males have no social obligation to sire an heir as with other societies. Transgender and transexual Dark Elves are met with slightly more controversy. Lolth’s rejection of the Primal Elves mutable forms is sometimes cited against transgender and transexual Dark Elves. Ghaunadur, however, is considered the patron god of these people and teaches that just as they are part of nature, they can change their forms. Many of these people join the religious order of Ghaunadur, serving in various roles both in religious ceremonies and as forest guides. Some even consider them to be blessed by Ghaunadur and are highly sought after in forays into the forests for protection. Children born to transgender Dark Elves are still expected to be a part of their eldest mother’s family or eldest father if no woman is part of the union.
Slavery Amongst the Dark Elves
While the Dark Elves do take slaves, their slavery doesn’t look the same as many other societies. When a family becomes indebted to another and they cannot pay off the debt, a member of their family, usually male, will be sent to work for the owed family. They give him room and board and are expected to care for him as if he were one of their own. He’ll work for them for an agreed upon amount of time before returning to his native family. Injury or misuse of this person is often grounds for them to leave and the debt to be nullified. Children born to servant fathers needn’t worry about inheriting their father’s status since they’re considered to be their mother’s child. On the rare occasion that a female servant has a child while in servitude, the child is returned to the mother’s family to be raised by her family while she works off the remaining debt. Some trade of servants does occur between houses, with indentured servants being traded for goods or services or even other servants of special skills, but the family of the servant reserves the right to veto such a trade for any reason. During their frequent clashes with external armies, the Dark Elves do sometimes take prisoners of war, though very rarely are they used for slave labor. They never bring them back to major settlements, often keeping them on the outskirts of their territory to prevent them from learning critical knowledge of their territory. Most prisoners are held as bargaining chips to be traded for passage, supplies, or captured Dark Elves. Captured military leaders are sometimes brought to Dark Elven cities to be tried for their crimes against their people.
Dark Elven Government: Independent Houses
Unlike many other cultures, the Dark Elves lack a centralized government. Societal etiquette govern the standard for how certain crimes and disagreements should be handled, but each family unit acts as its own governing body. Disagreements within families are thus resolved internally. Inter-family disputes are resolved in multiple different ways. Most often, the two matrons of the family will meet and agree on terms to fairly compensate both sides. In cases when these talks deteriorate, the High Priestess of Lolth is often called to serve as the mediator and serves as the ruling body between disputes. Her rulings are final and indisputable, as she is considered the mouthpiece of Lolth’s will. In times of crisis, historically the many houses of the Dark Elves have convened to discuss threats to all of Dark Elven society. This is uncommon as it’s difficult logistically to gather all the matrons in the same place at the same time, so often houses are represented by either the second eldest woman of the family or the eldest daughter of the matron. The High Priestess of Lolth often resides over these meetings as an arbiter in the event of split decisions or in delivering guidance from Lolth herself. There's my take on the Dark Elves. Any comments, suggestions, questions, outrages, and critiques are welcomed. This is my first comprehensive look at a whole race so if I've missed things, I'll try and patch them up. I'd like to do similar things for Orcs, Goblinoids, Kobolds, and others so those might be seen soon. Thanks!
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