Israeli CEO has been sentenced in a US court for defrauding Americans out of millions of dollars. The company specifically targeted the elderly and the vulnerable, one of over 100 Israeli companies perpetrating a scam called “binary options”… Israel permitted the scam for a decade…
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!
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.
Gravity's Rainbow Reading Group | Sections 66-69 | Week 20
Alright, home stretch foax. This section's a beast. Hang in there and keep sharing your insights! All together now... Section 66 "You will want cause and effect. All right." (663) What an opening - it's almost confrontational, mocking our need for clear narrative structure and causality. We discover that Thanatz was tossed overboard in the same storm that sent Slothrop off the Anubis and off on his adventure with Frau Gnahb. Thanatz is rescued by someone even stranger - an unnamed Polish undertaker (think on the etymology of that word) who happens to be a lightening aficionado. I'll stop here and comment that, earlier, when Slothrop fell into the water before and after getting on the Anubis, it brought to mind the river Styx in Hades - another underworld. It washes clean one's identity and memory. Makes you forget who you are. And there's traditionally a ferryman, Charon, to help people cross it. Can't help but think that's who saved Thanatz here, carrying him from the land of the dead to the land of the unliving, the preterite detritus of WWII. (An aside: Speaking of Styx, has anyone listened to Mr. Roboto recently? That song has some Gravity's Rainbow vibes.) Our undertaker here is inspired by the Franklin myth and is trying to get struck by lightening in order to experience that "singular point, [that] discontinuity in the curve of life" (664) passing from a rate of change of positive infinity to one of negative infinity in the blink of an eye. Seems there's something of a conspiracy among those who have been through this point of infinite inflection - a secret society of lightening heads who are aware not of another reality but of a new layer of reality laid on top of our own. Insight into a higher level of reality, of hidden systems. We get an example of the content of the lightning-aficionado's publication A Nickel Saved and it's supposedly full of coded messages for Those Who Know, each part being a veiled reference to other topics that contain the true meaning, requiring a true paranoid's ability to see (make?) connections. For example, there are repeated mentions of April, Easter, and Spring - the season of rebirth. To an Amperage Contest and lightbulbs failing - Byron the Bulb's attempts to strike back, perchance? A screen-door salesman - what is a screen door except a permeable interface? But our undertaker isn't interested in secret knowledge - he just wants to be a better businessman - and he deposits Thanatz on the shore and rows back off into the storm. Here, Thanatz meets a group of 175s - men formerly imprisoned in the Dora camp for being gay - who have formed their own solitary community in this isolated section of northern Germany. I suspect some of this imagery may initially shock readers - concentration camp victims who want to return to their prison? Who set up their own 175-Stadt to recreate the conditions of their imprisonment? But think about it - just last section, we saw Katje, someone who's been used and abused by those in power, balk at the thought of being truly free because she had become dependent on systems of control. She had integrated those control systems as part of her identity, her sense of self. "She needs the whip," Blicero wrote of her (662). Just like Katje, these men became so conditioned to depend on a system of total control and rigid social hierarchies that they don't know how to function without it. Their 175-Stadt doesn't seem like such a ridiculously dark, inappropriate caricature now, does it? Because isn't that a central point of this book - that everyone has been conditioned to need control, to need Their System, to not know how to function without it? Slothrop was our perfect everyman from within this system, and look at what it took for him to actually be free (and even then, the ideal of America still has a colonial outpost in his head). But in their 175-Stadt, these men at least control their system of control. They built it, they staff every level of it, and it's entirely under their control. An isolated state, separate from the broader System. But is there a ruler in this system, a king? No, simply the figment of Blicero. His name, his specter, looming over everything. A system of control with no real king? We've seen that before. Not only that, but this micro-society is not based strictly on the SS command from Dora, but what the prisoners inferred about the rocket command structure in the Mittelwerke. So even their "recreation" of their imprisonment is an approximation of a different system. I'd also stop here to comment that, is this imagery really as ridiculous/insane as it first appears? I'd say no, since the queeS&M community absolutely took inspiration from Nazi uniforms as symbols of dominance and control, repurposing it into fetishwear. But then, as in this 175-Stadt, the control is by choice, as is the submission. As we've seen elsewhere in this book (Blicero's Oven-State), turning submission into a fetish can be a form of rebellion, since it subverts Their means of control (fear of pain) and turns it into a source of pleasure. Is it truly control if you're choosing it? Enjoying it? No one said this book asks easy questions of its readers... Thanatz keeps looking for answers, and gets swept up amidst the vast swarms of preterite Displaced Persons being shifted across the zone. What's concerning is that these supposedly-free, albeit displaced, people, are shuffled without purpose across the Zone, with minimal food, water, or medicine, being "herded into wire enclosure[s]" and shipped around in freight cars, "deloused, poked, palpated, named, numbered, consigned, invoiced, misrouted, detained, ignored" (669). It's almost impossible to miss the painful similarity here to the treatment of Jews and other victims of the Holocaust. Only here the mistreatment isn't out of some pathological hatred, simply a system without a place for so many people, and without the committed resources to actually, effectively help them. The thought is unsettling, since we like to imagine that only Naziesque hatred could prompt such brutal mistreatment, not apathy. Finally, he's rescued by the Schwarzkommando thanks to his knowledge of Blicero and the firing of Rocket 00000. Here, we learn a bit more about what happened that day. Looking into Blicero's eyes, he saw windmills reflected, though none were in the area. Another four-way mandala, like we saw last week with Slothrop. Thanatz isn't in great mental shape by this point, and he's beginning to equate Gottfried and Bianca both as his children. Why? Because he felt some sense of responsibility to them? Because he failed them? Either way, the Schwarzkommando learn all they need from him about that fateful noon on the Heath, though we do not. The section ends with a simple touch of hands between Enzian and Christian, a moment of connection, of trust. Section 67 Man, how do I even start summarizing this complete doozy of a section? As Weissenburger writes, "In this episode the narration begins to fragment." (344) Ya don't say... Well, here goes. We being one serious trip of a section with Slothrop, as part of a rather unimpressive team of quasi-superheros (the "Floundering Four") fighting against evil ol' Broderick Slothrop amidst the factory-state (a Metropolis-like iteration of the Rocket-State with movable buildings?!). Broderick, in the role of comic book supervillain, keeps trying to off Slothrop, but our hero has a lucky streak just wide enough to keep him alive. Right off the bat, we see another image of the chessboard - the whole factory-state is laid out in a grid, and it's all A Game of Chess, as der Springer already informed us, and our movements are limited. Crucially, "Your objective is not the King - there is no King - but momentary targets such as the Radiant Hour." (674) How can you win at chess when there's no King? How can the land be restored and the cycle renewed if there's no King to die and be replaced? Slothrop is joined by a truly slipshod lot: Myrtle Miraculous, the only one who seems to have actual powers; Maximilian, a suave Black club manager who can flow with all natural rhythms and thus able to navigate any scenario with ease, and Marcel, a mechanical chess player (an embodiment of the Mechanical Turk, but crucially, one without the hidden human operator. No hidden Grandmaster lurking inside Marcel here - nope, this android's the real deal. This section includes one of my favorite quotes from the book: "Decisions are never really made - at best they manager to emerge, from a chaos of peeves, whims, hallucinations and all-round assholery." (676) I can think of several times where I've been able to relate to that scenario all too well. Their chances for success and failure are equal, but these opposing odds don't cancel each other out - instead, the two opposing forces just create a "loud dissonance". The crew undertake some truly hallucinatory adventures through the Racketen-Stadt which I will not attempt to summarize, as that would be an exercise in futility. But we are treated to flashes of Slothrop, "Broderick and Nalline's shadow-child, their unconfessed, their monster son," (677) getting locked in an icebox, piloting a mobile building through the grid-streets of the factory-state like a giant chess piece. One line really jumps out at me, here, that I think is important: "Their struggle is not the only, or even the ultimate one. Indeed, not only are there many other struggles, but there are also spectators, watching, as spectators will do, hundreds of thousands of them." (679) Makes me think of the "glozing neuters," mentioned earlier - of the masses of people who are just trying to live their lives, neither part of any conspiracy nor actively aware of being subject to one. Must be nice. At the same time, the idea of other, simultaneous struggles, is noteworthy - it brings to mind the concept of intersectionality, and how people realizing their unique, individual struggles share common sources, and common traits, which they can work together to fight. We end this sub-section in an arena for these exact masses, where our heroes are on a stakeout, with Slothrop in full drag waiting in the Transvestites' Toilet for a message. You may be wondering about the multiple instances of cross-dressing, in various iterations, throughout the book. Slothrop in drag and Blicero in a wig and merkin come to mind. One aspect, I'd say, is that it reflects a blending of two (as far as society is generally concerned) binary opposites. A crossing-over, a transgression against the status quo and an option other than 1 or 0. Eliot, in his Notes on The Waste Land, wrote,
"Tiresias, although a mere spectator and not indeed a 'character', is yet the most important personage in the poem, uniting all the rest. Just as the one-eyed merchant, seller of currants, melts into the Phoenician Sailor, and the latter is not wholly distinct from Ferdinand Prince of Naples, so all the women are one woman, and the two sexes meet in Tiresias. What Tiresias sees, in fact, is the substance of the poem." (Emphasis mine).
Cue Crutchfield the Westwardman's world of only one of everything. Likewise, the women in Gravity's Rainbow often blend together, share traits or imagery. So do the men. The joining of the two sexes in Blicero, as well as Slothrop here at the end, is significant. The Low-Frequency Listeners The introduction here of the character of Rohr, the Keeper of the Antenna, specifically as a Jehovah's witness, was odd. It's such a specific subsect of Christianity. Then we see - he heard a man on the radio, dying, asking for a priest. Rohr says, "Should I have got on and told him about priests? Would he've found any comfort in that?" (682). In what? I had to look it up, but when I did, it clicked - Jehovah's witnesses apparently do not have priests, because they are all ordained. There is no separate priest caste in their church, and thus no Preterite/Elect division. In this section, we also learn that the Nuremberg trials are getting underway. Mom Slothrop's Letter to Ambassador Kennedy You start to feel even more sorry for Slothrop as you realize just how terrible his parents apparently were. His mom cares enough to at least write another letter asking Ambassador Kennedy as to what the hell happened to their son, but her letter quickly devolves into drunken ramblings complaining about striking workers and managing to make an innuendo about Jack Kennedy while also dismissing her love of her sons. Oof. Maybe Otto was right with his conspiracy of mothers... On the Phrase "Ass-Backwards" An entertaining linguistic debate between Säure and Slothrop on American idioms, specifically ones involving a reversal, as in the case of "ass-backwards". The section then slips into a story of Säure, in his youth, breaking into the home of a young woman, Minnie, who is unable to hear or pronounce umlauted letters, and thus manages to shout the word "helicopter" rather than "cute robber" well before the vehicle was ever invented. Her cry is heard by none other than a young aerodynamics student. The word is taken as a prophesy and a warning of the helicopter's symbol of the police state, with armed officers hanging out the sides, aiming down at their targets. My Doper's Cadenza It begins with a serenade from Bodine, and then an exploration of the tenement building "Der Platz" that is home to numerous drug addicts, dope peddlers, and general ne'er-do-wells. They are building an anti-police moat around the building, entirely underground so as to avoid detection, saving breaking through the street for the end. Shit 'n' Shinola Another idiomatic diversion for Säure. A beautiful line is tucked away in here - "from outside, the Hall is golden, the white gold precisely of one lily-of-the-valley petal in 4 o'clock sunlight, serene, at the top of an artificially-graded hill." (687) This building, the Schein-Aula (Seeming-Hall), suggests "persistence, through returns of spring, hopes for love, melting snow and ice, academic Sunday tranquillities, smells of grass just crushed or cut or later turning to hay..." (688) Yet again, imagery of spring, of a return to life from the dead season of winter, of the cycle. We return to the Roseland Ballroom, where shit 'n' Shinola do actually come together. "Shit, now, is the color white folks are afraid of. Shit is the presence of death, not some abstract-arty character with a scythe but the stiff and rotting corpse itself inside the whiteman's warm and private own asshole, which is getting pretty intimate. That's what that white toilet's for.... that white porcelain's the very emblem of Odorless and Official Death." (688) Here Pynchon cuts straight to the point - the almost pathological fear of death and its connections to fears of blackness, excrement. Shit, Death, and the Word. Edwin Treacle hit on this back on p. 276 when he tried to show his colleagues at the White Visitation "that their feelings about blackness were tied to feelings about shit, and feelings about shit to feelings about putrefaction and death." The cycle of life is too organic, too messy. Better to replace carbon with silicon, to hide shit with porcelain, to treat people with dark skin as "other" or sub-human to avoid acknowledging that their non-European, communal ways of life were, in fact, totally natural. An Incident in the Transvestites' Toilet Not King Kong, but a small, costumed ape comes up to Slothrop, who's wearing a Fay Wray dress while waiting in the bathroom for a still-unspecified message. We get a Miltonic blank-verse poem (thanks, Weissenburger!) about the movie King Kong, written in the voice of Anne Darrow (Fay Wray's character). It's honestly quite good - I love the line "in your own stone living space" - the internal rhyme there sounds really nice, and I like the riff on living stone / Livingston, both of which have popped up previously. In the poem, Darrow talks about when she was tied up, hung by the natives as an offering to "the night's one Shape to come" (689), echoing both Greta Erdman's scene in Alpdrücken and the Hanged Man card of the Tarot (willing sacrifice, sacrifice that prompts a return, a renewal of the cycle). Darrow says she prayed, "not for Jack," her suave costar, but for her director Carl Denham, "only him, with gun and camera... making the unreal reel / By shooting at it, one way or the other-" (689). Throughout GR, we've seen a film motif, and this really brings it home. The analogy of a gun to a camera, both of which make the unreal real (a camera creates films that interpret real life - the "unreal reel", a gun makes death, which we've blocked away and tried to avoid, real and inescapable). The director is in control of the movie, the actors, the story, of how it works and what is told. Darrow ends by asking Carl to "show me the key light, whisper me a line..." - a key light is used in cinema and photography to not just shed light on the subject, but to do so in a way that provides form and dimension to the subject and the scene. So Darrow is asking for the director to literally give her form and definition, to tell her what to say next. This ape, though, isn't so Romantic as ol' Kong though, and is much more direct. It hands Slothrop an anarchist's bomb straight out of the comics pages, and takes off. Slothrop freezes and is saved by a helpful transvestite who takes the bomb and flushes it down the toilet. But it explodes anyway, sending geysers of water up out of all the toilets. A Voice comes out of he Loudspeaker informing everyone that it was, in fact, a sodium bomb that explodes upon contact with water. Tellls everyone to get the "dangerous maniac" who threw it. That was supposed to be Slothrop, but he was saved by his indecision and the kindness of a stranger, who is now set upon by the other occupants of the toilet. A Moment of Fun with Takeshi and Ichizo, the Komical Kamikazes We now jump to a pair of comically-mismatched Kamikaze pilots stationed on a remote island well away from any conflict. One flies a Zero, the other flies an "Ohka device" which is basically a rocket-bomb with a pilot's seat. They get moonshine from their radarman, Kenosho, who mocks them daily for the lack of opportunities to fly to their deaths and who comes up with haikus that, while in the right format, really miss the heart of what a haiku is supposed to be. Streets Back to Slothrop, now, and a catalogue of the streets he's traveled down and what he's seen. We get a meditation on the absurdity of army chaplains, who worked for the Army and "stood up and talked to the men who were going to die about God, death, nothingness, redemption, salvation." (693) And it does seem a bit absurd when you consider that the Army that employs the chaplains is the same entity sending the men off to die. We see a bus driver (perchance our maniac bus driver from earlier?) driving through town in the night, his passengers looking out the windows, their faces "drowned-man green, insomniac, tobacco-starved, scared, not of tomorrow, not yet, but of this pause in their night-passage, of how easy it will be to lose, and how much it will hurt..." (693) Going back to the Waste Land, the phrase "I do not find / The Hanged Man. Fear death by water." is symbolic of a death without return (drowning) contrasted to the sacrifice/return symbolized by The Hanged Man. These poor passengers, it seems, aren't to expect any return. Slothrop also, at this point, learns of the bombing of Hiroshima from a discarded Army newspaper, the photo of the atomic blast placed in poor taste next to an image of a pin-up girl. The bomb's mushroom cloud is compared to the Cross, to a capital-T Tree. But which tree? Is this a meditation on the deadly, unforgettable knowledge of how to split the atom, or of the tree of life, with the citizens of Hiroshima as a sacrifice made... but to what? I'm honestly not sure. Would love your thoughts. Listening to the Toilet As others have noted, this book in many ways is about the drug counterculture and hippie movement of the 60s/early 70s. This is the most overt in this section, in which we learn that listening for the cessation of the flow of water to the toilet in the pipes is a cue that a police raid is imminent - shutting off the water being a way to prevent the flushing of illicit substances. But it takes a special ear to hear the cessation of a subtle, pervasive white noise. What if the sun, in fact, massive furnace that it is, emits a constant, low-level roar that is so incessant we don't even hear it? What if eddies in the current of the Soniferous Aether cause rare spots of true quiet, where the noise is no longer transmitted and anyone in that spot can hear their own heartbeat it's so quiet? Interestingly, there are "quiet rooms" designed to absorb nearly all sound, used for precise sound calibration. I remember reading that most people can't sit in one of those rooms for more than 30 minutes or so because it's literally so quiet that you can hear the blood flowing through your veins, and people have even reported auditory hallucinations as a result. But why this digression? Maybe because we need to be asking what other white noise is out there that we've become completely deaf to? I think Roger and Jessica found a pocket of this quiet, early in the book, where the "noise" of modern society and all its associated obligations was muted by the War. Witty Repartee A return to our Komical Kamikazes, and a meditation on the ubiquity of the Hotchkiss machine gun across nations, independent of alliances. We get an image of a false King - an inbred idiot lying naked in a dumpster, attracting the attention of potential revolutionaries. But they can't decide if he's "a diversionary nuisance planted here by the Management, or whether he's real Decadent Aristocracy to be held for real ransom" (698). While the would-be revolutionaries are debating in the alley, sentries with the aforementioned Hotchkiss guns take positions on the rooftops, aiming down... Heart-to-Heart, Man-to-Man A dialogue here between Slothrop and ol' Broderick, with dear old dad interrogating his wayward son about a modern electric drug. Slothrop reassures him that he'd never shoot raw electricity - no, they dope themselves with waves. Major pre-Cyberpunk vibes here, with Broderick warning "Suppose someday you just plug in and go away and never come back?" to which Tyrone replies, "What do you think every electrofreak dreams about? .... Maybe there is a Machine to take us away, take us completely, suck us out through the electrodes out of the skull 'n' into the Machine and live there forever.... We can live forever, in a clean, honest, purified Electroworld-" (699). Matrix, anyone? Not to mention the waves of radio, TV, etc. and the simple, episodic, controlled reality they offer. Pleasantville also comes to mind, with all its commentary on the shows of the era. Some Characteristics of Imipolex G We learn that Imipolex G is the first erectile plastic, stiffening in response to certain electronic stimuli. The potential of a layer of controlling wires just under the outer layer of Imipolex, making it a second skin - a synthetic interface. Alternately, there's the potential to control it via a projection of "an electronic 'image; analogous to a motion picture." (700) My gods, I made it through this section... Section 68 Tchitcherine now, dealing with a spook, Nikolai Ripov, from the Commissariat for Intelligence Activities. His pal Džabajev has run off with "two local derelicts" (700) and is impersonating Frank Sinatra and wooing the ladies of the Zone. We get the line, "While nobles are crying in their nights' chains, the squires sing. The terrible politics of the Grail can never touch them. Song is the magic cape." (701) - Seems another example of folks recognizing the game, the Grail quest, for what it was and checking out - deciding not to play and just enjoy themselves while the Elect lose sleep over the endless searching. Ripov explains to Tchitcherine how "the basic problem... has always been getting other people to die for you." (701) Religion used to serve as an effective control for that reason - death isn't quite as scary if you think you're going to heaven. But modern society has moved on, and needs more secular sources of control, like a commitment to "History" as if you're part of some great narrative, sacrificing yourself for some imagined end-goal of what society is "supposed" to be. Seems Tchitcherine was doping on Oneirine theophosphate. Wimpe, his dealer, argues that a man is "only real at the points of decision. The time between doesn't matter." (702) Points man again - the moment of decision, of choice, that splits the future in two. Points of control. Contrast that to:
"Datta: what have we given? / My friend, blood shaking my heart / The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract / By this, and this only, we have existed." (The Waste Land, Part V: What the Thunder Said - emphasis mine).
Both are arguing that it's these key moments, irreversible junctures in our lives that make us real. Not what comes next, not what people say about us, just our moments. Integrate those moments, run them fast enough (say 24 frames per second) and you might even approximate something close to a person... We learn that Oneirine apparently leads to "the dullest hallucinations known to psychopharmacology" (703) - hauntings of the mundane, the almost-normal. Tchitcherine's Haunting Tchitcherine hallucinates that Ripov is interrogating him, and he becomes fixated on the question of whether or not he was supposed to die. Seems like part of him wants to believe in life after death, in some hope for meaning, which goes against the Soviet doctrine and thus isn't exactly endearing him to those above him. Thankfully this is just an Oneirine haunting, except... wait, it's too real - no subtle violations of reality. He tries to escape, but is outnumbered. But no execution for him here - just a reassignment to Central Asia. A cold and operational death. Section 69
"The dearest nation of all is one that will survive no longer than you and I, a common movement at the mercy of death and time: the ad hoc adventure." - Resolutions of the Gross Suckling Conference (706)
In other words, they seek a nation that does not function independently of its citizens - one that is not some separate identity with a quasi-personhood (much like how corporations are legally "people"). Rather, a nation that is inextricably linked to the people and that will die when they do. No immortality, no denial of the cycle or death. But poor Roger's still dealing with Jessica, and now with Jeremy, too, who he's at least amicable with. But he's struggling with their acceptance of the System, their embracing of it. Jeremy's all about reassembling the rockets and firing them, asking "What else does one do with a rocket?" (note how disassembling it or at least not using the weapon isn't even an option...). Jeremy's even so kind as to invite Roger to a fancy dinner with a bunch of corporate bigwigs, including folks from Krupp, ICI, and GE, and hosted by one Stefan Utgarthaloki, whose name should be a giant red-flag that something's amiss with this shindig. Roger picks Seaman Bodine as his date, the two having struck up a rather theatrical friendship, dress in their absurdist best (Bodine in the mother of all zoot suits), and join the party. We get some insight here into the nature of rebellions, and the danger of them not only fizzling out or failing, but of being co-opted as a tool to "help legitimize Them" (713). Of either dying or "living on as Their pet" - it brings to mind the corporate branding of "rebelliousness" as cool, as "a phase" that it's normal to go through and eventually grow up from. Treating the idealism of youth, the desire to make the world better and to fight against the problems of the system before you become numb to them, as a normal phase of life is such an effective way to neutralize it culturally. How many people have heard the phrase "you get conservative [i.e. more resistant to change] as you get older"? How many of us have seen youth-led movements being dismissed as examples of immaturity, for example? Between that and companies stamping their logo on it (hello, Hot Topic), it's a way to change the cultural narrative around any movement against the status quo to one that's dismissive, just accepting enough to let people burn off their energy and eventually fall into line. Because how else can you continue to live a decent life in a society that refuses to change? You either go build a shack in the woods somewhere, die, or acclimate to the system and just focus on being comfortable yourself, not constantly fighting for change. It's a depressing thought, and I'm sure Pynchon saw a lot of that attitude in the 60s. I have to wonder - do non-industrialized societies have "teenage rebellion" as a normal part of life? Is that a part of human nature, like we tend to think, or is it an explicit reaction to reaching maturity in a system that is anti-human and anti-nature? Anyway, back to the dinner party - between the depressing, anti-social music (kazoos?!) and the lavish dinner, things seem fine, but there's a plot against the Roger and Bodine. Fortunately a journalist, Constance, tips off Bodine that they might just be the main course of this feast, so Bodine cues Roger to begin the evening show - an absurd gross-out session that they planned in advance with the aid of now-deceased Pudding communicating via medium Carroll Eventyr. The pair recite an increasingly disgusting list of alliterative dishes, triggering "well-bred gagging" and guests to flee, though a few find it all quite entertaining. But it's enough to break up the dinner party and allow our heroes to flee. Note: If you made it this far, actually read all this,thank you. Bloom warned me this was a longer section, and boy, he wasn't kidding. I think this is longer than some college essays I wrote... Damn fun, though, and I hope you've found my thoughts informative, interesting, useful, or if nothing else, sufficiently diversionary for a spell. I truly look forward to seeing what you other fine foax have to say on these labrynthine sections. Questions
In the lightning-aficionado's "A Nickel Saved" excerpt, are there any other references or hidden ideas you can find? I have to think there are.
What is the meaning of the windmill reflected in Blicero's eyes? How do you interpret the imagery in this scene in general?
175-Stadt. Oven-State. Hund-Stadt. Rocket-State. Factory-State. We've seen numerous examples of specialized micro-states across the Zone, experiments in different forms of society. What are your thoughts on these? Are they hints at ways to find alternate societies, or manifestations of humanity's tendency to divide by category and put of fences?
In the "Shit 'n' Shinola" subsection, Pynchon connects Jack Kennedy, Malcolm X, and Tyrone Slothrop. What do you make of this intersection?
In "Streets," the bombing of Hiroshima is presented as being similar to the Cross, "it is also, perhaps, a Tree..." - the capitalized "Tree" here could be the tree of knowledge, the tree of life, the tree from which the Hanged Man dangles, or perhaps something else. What's your interpretation of this imagery?
In Section 69, we see references to the Albatross, famous symbol from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. It's presented that Slothrop is the (now-plucked) albatross, but it's not clear who killed this bird, or who's wearing it around their neck. They? Any ideas?
NOTE: I'm pasting this guide from where I originally found it, over on Studentloandefaulters. It was originally pasted there from someone who found it after the original was deleted.
Student Loan Default: The Guide (reuploaded)
📷 The original guide that was recently deleted here:https://www.reddit.com/studentloandefaulters/comments/cg1fd7/student_loan_default_a_guide/ I take no credit for this post, just happened to have it saved in a document and thought I'd be doing an injustice by not sharing this information once I saw the original post was missing! All credit goes to the original author, and without further ado... Student Loan Default: A Guide I’ve been wanting to write this for a long time, and seeing that person be in $500,000 of debt and no one really helping him on studentloans, I felt it was time to summarize everything I’ve learned. While there is great information on this sub, it is not centralized. It requires some digging. I hope now to bring all of it to the surface. Definitions: Strategic Default: When a borrower realizes that he or she can spend less money by not paying a loan. The borrower waits out the statute of limitations and then either settles or waits the debt out. Shills: People who are paid to prevent the spread of student loan default information Statute of Limitations: The number of years your state requires before a debt can no longer be collected. Cosigner: The poor person who is just as legally required to pay your loans as you are Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion: A tax rule that states any US citizen can earn up to about $100,000 a year in another country and report their US taxes as 0. Fraudulent Transfer: When a party tries to move assets to someone else in order to avoid a lien on their property. Lien: Essentially when the government slaps a bill onto your property forcing you to pay off a debt before you can sell the property. Income Based Repayment (IBR): Federal loans can be paid with 15% of your discretionary income (money earned after taxes) instead of a higher, unpayable amount Aggregate Student Loan Limit: The total amount a student can take out before the federal government or a private lender stops authorizing new loans Wage Garnishment: When a court forces your employer to take out a certain percentage of your paycheck to pay back a debt Bank Levy: When the government or a court takes all of the money directly out of your bank account to pay a debt Private Loans: Loans that originate from anyone but the federal government. These loans have a statute of limitations and less power but higher interest rates. Federal Loans: These loans have no statute of limitations, the government can collect anything you earn to get these back, and they come with IBR which is manageable Sallie Mae: The worst private lender on the market. They only offer deferment for four short years. Forbearance: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest accrues. Deferment: A period where you do not have to pay your student loans, but interest does not accrue. Credit Score: A number that tells people how responsible of a borrower you are. Student Loan Tax Bomb: After you have paid for 10 - 25 years on your federal loans, you are forgiven the rest. That is considered income by the IRS. You then add this “income” to your regular income for the year and pay the tax. It can be over $10,000. Insolvency: When you are unable to pay your debts. This works well for defusing the student loan tax bomb. Public Service Loan Forgiveness: If you work for 10 years at a government job, you can get your entire federal student loan balance forgiven. In 2019, the feds are making it near impossible to collect. This could change. A note on cosigners before we begin: Look, your cosigner is probably going to be very mad at you. Prepare for your relationship to be strained. You need to try and get them on the same page as you, and I do offer a tactic here to at least shift all of the financial burden off of your cosigner below. If you decide to do any of these tactics without getting your cosigner off the hook, there could be more risk involved if you or your cosigners have a lot of assets. Strategy Student loan default is a strategy. And to have a good strategy, one must plan as much as possible. You have to know all of your options. While strategy is your overall game plan, tactics are the individual options you have to get your strategy accomplished. Below are the tactics that you can employ to beat the student loan companies. Tactics Paying Your Loans: [low risk] In the rare chance you have anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000 in federal student loans and you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you should probably just pay the damn loans. All you have to do is set up an auto debit and forget about it. It will be about 15% of your income. You really want to try and avoid consolidating if you can, because it will count against some of your IBR payments. You would also lose your grace period if you did this. At the end of 10 to 25 years, you will be forgiven all of the loan amount you did not pay. That forgiven amount is considered income by the IRS, so you will be put into a higher tax bracket. I would get an accountant when this comes. In your case, your tax bomb will be low enough where you could probably just pay it. If you want to really shake things up though, you are welcome to try either the Asset Creation Tactic or the Madlad Method below. Here is more information on Income Based Repayment: https://www.studentdebtrelief.us/repayment-plans/income-based-repayment-plan/ Default Private IBR Federal (Staying Put): [low risk] The standard strategy here on studentloandefaulters. As mentioned above, for the federal loans, it’s best to just IBR and automatically debit your bank account each month and forget about it. For the private loans, this is where the game begins. Your overall plan here is to default, wait out the statute of limitations in your home state, and either settle the debt for less than 30% or just hope they leave you alone and you don’t pay at all. From this moment on, whatever you would have paid for your private monthly bill, sock that money away. Once you go past 120 days of no payments, you are in default. This is where the phone calls come in. They will start to harass you. They will call your work, your cell phone, your cosigner, etc relentlessly. Most likely, they’ll start doing this before you get to default. As they call you, you can either just give them the cold shoulder or start immediately acting like you do not own the debt. Never admit that you own the debt. Tell them you think they are crazy and have the wrong person. Inform your cosigner to do the same. Once your loans are sold to a collection agency, wait until they call you and ask for verification of the debt. If they do not provide it, you won. Chances are, they will be able to verify it, so just make sure you never admit to the debt on the phone or make a payment. If you make a payment, you’ll reset the statute of limitations. Do not give them five dollars, two dollars, a penny. If they do sue you, show up for court. Get a lawyer if you can afford it. You have to show up to court, or they win automatically. Even if you don’t have a lawyer in court, you need to make them verify the debt. You could still lose here. If you do lose in court, go to my tactic of “The Cat and Mouse Game.” They are playing a numbers game, and if you are harder to sue than John Smith down the street, they may prey on him or her instead of you. Now, there are four states in the United States that do not have wage garnishment: Pennsylvania, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. You could move there, and if you have barely any assets, you are considered judgement proof. This means you’re not worth the time to be sued, because you have nothing to take and cannot be garnished. Moving is hard, though, so that’s a personal decision. Also, from what I understand, if you do move to these states, you can switch your statute of limitations over to their states which may be less time until you cannot be sued anymore. If you do lose and just want to stop here, you could get your bank levied and you could be slapped with up to a 25% wage garnishment until paid in full Clarification: a lot of people do not ever get garnished, and bank levies are rare (they are non-existent on federal loans). Do not let this freak you out!. I repeat this is super rare and not likely to happen. Anyways, you have options at this point. If it does happen, try another tactic like leave the country or cat and mouse below. Default Private Default Federal: [medium risk] Some of the wilder people have attempted to default on both federal and private loans in order to do a cash settlement. The same strategy above in Default Private IBR Federal applies, but realize that the US government could just step in and do an administrative garnish on you eventually. If you were living some sort of cash existence, you could potentially avoid them and then write them a money order and settle for 30% or something. This way, you avoid the tax bomb and would probably pay a lot less interest overall. If you do this and it works, I would love to hear about it. Cat and Mouse: [medium risk] So, you want to avoid getting sued or you lost a judgement? You don’t have to sit back and take it. u/nowaysalliemae has successfully avoided being sued by essentially going on the run. You see, to be sued successfully, they need to know where you work. If you get sued, move to another state, and switch jobs, they have to do the entire process over again! This means find you, verify the debt, sue you, etc. You can essentially do this until your statute of limitations runs out. And then, you dispute the debt on your credit score. They take it off at that point, and you just saved a lot of money. I decided to put this as medium risk, because moving around a lot would require some luck. Especially since you would need to work wherever you go, there are a lot of moving parts here. I think it is totally doable, and if you are an adventurous personality type, it could be a lot of fun. This only works for the private student loan side, because the US government has a lot more power. You would still IBR your federal loans on this tactic. For more information, go through nowaysalliemae's post history. Leave the Country: [medium risk] What if you want to avoid all of this altogether? Do you want a reset button on your life? You can just leave the country and start over. Seriously. Your credit score does not follow you across countries. The federal government cannot garnish your paycheck if you work internationally. You are not a criminal doing this. Furthermore, there is something called the Foreign Earned Income Tax Exclusion. Since you will still IBR your federal loans on this plan, as long as you make less than $100,000 in another country, your US income is zero. This means you just got a free education while you make money in another country. Once you pay zero for 25 years, you will have to defuse your student tax bomb. Tactic Below. Private companies do not stand a chance here. There are countries in the commonwealth such as Australia and Canada that are more willing to take you in if you meet certain requirements. You could teach English at a bunch of places. You could apply for residency at these places or be a perpetual tourist. A perpetual tourist is someone who essentially moves to a new country, goes to a neighboring country for a weekend, and then goes back to that new country they are trying to start a new life in*. This in no means you have to go back to the U.S. Ever. For example, you want to live in Panama forever, every 90 days, you take a weekend trip to Nicaragua. You come back to Panama after the weekend is over and get another 90 day pass. Rinse and repeat. This gives you another 90 days in your country of choice. If you make money on the internet, this strategy would work pretty well. You can just be a perpetual tourist or marry someone in another country and start a new life. This will not be a good fit for everyone, but there’s something exciting about this. If you are young, single, and restless, this could be the adventure of a lifetime. Here's more info on being a perpetual traveler and the FEIE: https://www.escapeartist.com/blog/perpetual-traveler-us-tax-code/ Suspend Payment Without More Debt: [low risk] So recently, it has been brought to my attention that there is a community college, Luna Community College (in Las Vegas, NM), that has tuition so low you could go half time all year for about 684 dollars. They have a small amount of associate's degrees. If you just want to stop paying without taking any more loans, this would be the way to do it. You could do this for many years. Luna Community College's tuition matrix: https://luna.edu/tuition_matrix Convert Private Loans to Federal: [low risk] From this point on, these are my special tactics I’ve been thinking about. They might work really well for some people. So, you have a bunch of federal loans and a good amount of private loans. You don’t want to fight debt collectors or move around. Try this. This plan only works if you have a bachelor’s degree though. Anyways, there is a special loan offered by the US Federal Government called the Graduate Plus Loan. This loan is incredible, because there is no aggregate student loan limit. In other words, you can borrow as much money as you want here. Even a million dollars no questions asked. All you need is no delinquency or default on your credit report. If you do have these things, you can get a cosigner in on the plan. They won’t ever be responsible anyways because you will defuse the tax bomb at the end. This works to your advantage, because you could go back to school at the graduate level, get a diploma mill master’s degree online, use your room and board payment to start paying off your private loans ASAP. Just make sure you are doing whatever your school considers half time enrollment in order to avoid student loan payments while doing this. Once you’ve gone to school long enough and converted all of your private loans to grad plus loans, you could just go on an IBR plan. This will at least make your life manageable. You would have to defuse your student tax bomb once this is over. Tactic below. Convert Federal Loans to Private: [medium risk] So, what if you wanted to go the opposite way? Maybe you want to convert all of your federal loans to private ones, default, and then leave the country? Hey, maybe there are reasons you want to hurry up the settlement process. You could essentially do the same strategy as above, but instead just borrow from Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, etc until all of your federal loans are paid off. Then, either cat and mouse or leave the country. I don’t think a lot of people would find a use for this, but hey who knows? Asset Creation Method: [high risk] What if you wanted to not just pay off your loans but get ahead in life? Maybe you feel like using your student loan debt to your advantage. Thanks to the work done by u/BinaryAlgorithm, you could really come out on top here. Remember those Grad Plus loans we were talking about? Well, there’s nothing stopping you from continually borrowing all year on these loans, investing the room and board, and acting as if you do not have the debt in the first place. While I had originally said that rental property does not count as income, I cannot find any documentation proving this. You can still invest this money however you want, and you just defuse the tax bomb at the end (if anyone can find that documentation, please let me know). I did find that rental properties offer a lot of ways to reduce your adjusted gross income (management fees, advertising, etc), and these could reduce your income closer to zero. We’re not done here. Moreover, you could get a job that qualifies for Public Student Loan Forgiveness, enjoy your investments, and then pay for the 10 years. Be sure to convert all loans to federal before starting this tactic. I only put this as high risk, because the whole plan falls apart if Grad Plus loans get capped. Will they? Probably not, because those are the loans doctors and lawyers take out to go to their professional schools. It would take an act of congress to change the way the law stands now, but still, you should know that. This plan spans decades, so a lot can change. Also, having this many installment loans may lower your credit score over a multitude of years, but based on what everyone has found out here, it's not by much. For more information, go to this subreddit's search bar and type in "aggregate" and go look at BinaryAlgorithm's two posts on the subject. Defusing the Student Tax Bomb: [low risk] So lucky for you, I talked to an actual lawyer and an actual IRS agent about this. This is completely legal and doable. Okay, so you were a good person and paid your IBR for 25-30 years. What now? Well, you’re about to be hit hard with a tax bomb. All of that money that is now forgiven counts as income on your taxes. This could mean a bill in the tens of thousands if you combined this with any of the other methods here—or just borrowed a lot to begin with. Luckily for us, there is something called insolvency. This means you are unable to pay your debts, and there is a really simple formula for whether or not you are insolvent. As long as you have more liabilities than assets at the time of student loan forgiveness, you are considered insolvent. In other words, right before you are about to be forgiven, like year 24 out of 25, you would take out a loan on something. All you would need to do is buy a house, buy a car, or buy something with a huge price tag. As long as your liabilities are way higher than your assets (like aim for 100K or something more), you are considered insolvent and you don’t have to pay any of the tax bomb. Boom. The IRS agent said this is fine. The lawyer said this is fine. I cannot believe this is fine. Where could you get the money to borrow for a house? Check Asset Creation method above. You could always sell the asset after the tax bomb is dealt with. For more information on defusing the student loan tax bomb: https://lawyerist.com/defusing-student-loan-interest-tax-bomb/ Getting Your Cosigner Off the Hook: So 90% of us have cosigners based on some statistic I read. These people are going to pissed at you, because they get harassed. If you have a lot of time to plan your strategy out, you can simply convert all of your private loans to federal ones. They are no longer responsible. The plan is above. Check out “Convert Private Loans to Federal.” Furthermore, if you are attempting to go the default route with private loans, you could potentially get your cosigner off the hook by refinancing your student loans without the cosigner. After you refinance, you could just default then. You would need good credit and meet certain requirements for this. Also, if you plan on defaulting, you might want to get your cosigner to transfer their assets to their spouse or someone trustworthy. Even though liens are rare, this could give you some peace of mind. As long as about 3-5 years go by, this is no longer considered a fraudulent transfer. Your state will have certain rules about this. If you are from Florida, apparently houses are untouchable there. You will need a lawyer to plan the asset transfer. At the same time, you may not be able to get your cosigner off the hook. Make peace with that. Student loans are brutal, so all you can really do is educate yourself and your cosigner and hope you come out on top. Madlad Method: [high risk] Now, here comes my personal plan. This is what I’m doing, because I want to live a life on my terms and not really work for anyone my entire life. I’m also not a normal person, so this will probably appear crazy to some or most of you. So at this point, if you understand all of the methods before you, you are a powerful player in the student loan circus. You can do anything from fight the man to maliciously comply and bankrupt the system while becoming upper-middle class. I don’t really care for any of that. I want to go to a tropical paradise and make music for 20 years, so here is my interpretation of everything. I have some federal loans and private loans. I net about 25K a year through the Grad Plus loans, and I work about 4 hours a week in the online classroom. I take that federal loan money, and I sock away a few hundred every month to save up for my private loan settlement in about five years. Since I save 300 every month, I’ll have about 18K in 5 years when I go into default. I will settle ASAP. At the same time, I will continue to go to diploma mill universities, get master's degree after master’s degree, and move to a Latin American country where the cost of living is even lower. This way, my 25K a year puts me in the upper class of that country. I can live where I want and really do whatever I damn well please for as long as the Grad Plus loans are around. As an added bonus, I will already be starting a new life in another country where I can make connections and maybe even get married. I studied linguistics, so I know how to teach English. I can do that if I want a source of income anywhere. So there is my plan, and honestly, one day we might get someone in office who just wipes out all of this debt anyways. If that’s the case, I can just play the waiting game until all of this is over. Here are the rules on adverse credit history and Grad Plus loans: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/sites/default/files/plus-adverse-credit.pdf Final Thoughts: Defaulting on student loans is not immoral or a sin. It is a business decision. Everyone else gets bailouts, why should student borrowers be any different? You’re going to have to ignore the people who tell you why they think you should be a good little slave and pay your loans. Those people are not your friends. Those people are not on your side. Some of the best advice I ever received in life was you have to do what’s best for you. Also, if you have anything you would like to add to this or would like to challenge, please let me know. I want this to be as accurate as possible. I will be looking at this perpetually to make sure there are no errors. Take care. Good luck. You can do this.
This post draws on my personal experiences and challenges over the past term at school, which I entered with hardly any knowledge of DSA (data structures and algorithms) and problem-solving strategies. As a self-taught programmer, I was a lot more familiar and comfortable with general programming, such as object-oriented programming, than with the problem-solving skills required in DSA questions. This post reflects my journey throughout the term and the resources I turned to in order to quickly improve for my coding interview. Here're some common questions and answers What's the interview process like at a tech company? Good question. It's actually pretty different from most other companies.
(What It's Like To Interview For A Coding Job
First time interviewing for a tech job? Not sure what to expect? This article is for you.
Here are the usual steps:
First, you’ll do a non-technical phone screen.
Then, you’ll do one or a few technical phone interviews.
Finally, the last step is an onsite interview.
Some companies also throw in a take-home code test—sometimes before the technical phone interviews, sometimes after. Let’s walk through each of these steps.
The non-technical phone screen
This first step is a quick call with a recruiter—usually just 10–20 minutes. It's very casual. Don’t expect technical questions. The recruiter probably won’t be a programmer. The main goal is to gather info about your job search. Stuff like:
Your timeline. Do you need to sign an offer in the next week? Or are you trying to start your new job in three months?
What’s most important to you in your next job. Great team? Flexible hours? Interesting technical challenges? Room to grow into a more senior role?
What stuff you’re most interested in working on. Front end? Back end? Machine learning?
Be honest about all this stuff—that’ll make it easier for the recruiter to get you what you want. One exception to that rule: If the recruiter asks you about your salary expectations on this call, best not to answer. Just say you’d rather talk about compensation after figuring out if you and the company are a good fit. This’ll put you in a better negotiating position later on.
The technical phone interview(s)
The next step is usually one or more hour-long technical phone interviews. Your interviewer will call you on the phone or tell you to join them on Skype or Google Hangouts. Make sure you can take the interview in a quiet place with a great internet connection. Consider grabbing a set of headphones with a good microphone or a bluetooth earpiece. Always test your hardware beforehand! The interviewer will want to watch you code in real time. Usually that means using a web-based code editor like Coderpad or collabedit. Run some practice problems in these tools ahead of time, to get used to them. Some companies will just ask you to share your screen through Google Hangouts or Skype. Turn off notifications on your computer before you get started—especially if you’re sharing your screen! Technical phone interviews usually have three parts:
Beginning chitchat (5–10 minutes)
Technical challenges (30–50 minutes)
Your turn to ask questions (5–10 minutes)
The beginning chitchat is half just to help your relax, and half actually part of the interview. The interviewer might ask some open-ended questions like:
Tell me about yourself.
Tell me about something you’ve built that you’re particularly proud of.
I see this project listed on your resume—tell me more about that.
You should be able to talk at length about the major projects listed on your resume. What went well? What didn’t? How would you do things differently now? Then come the technical challenges—the real meet of the interview. You’ll spend most of the interview on this. You might get one long question, or several shorter ones. What kind of questions can you expect? It depends. Startups tend to ask questions aimed towards building or debugging code. (“Write a function that takes two rectangles and figures out if they overlap.”). They’ll care more about progress than perfection. Larger companies will want to test your general know-how of data structures and algorithms (“Write a function that checks if a binary tree is ‘balanced’ in O(n)O(n) ↴ time.”). They’ll care more about how you solve and optimize a problem. With these types of questions, the most important thing is to be communicating with your interviewer throughout. You'll want to "think out loud" as you work through the problem. For more info, check out our more detailed step-by-step tips for coding interviews. If the role requires specific languages or frameworks, some companies will ask trivia-like questions (“In Python, what’s the ‘global interpreter lock’?”). After the technical questions, your interviewer will open the floor for you to askthemquestions. Take some time before the interview to comb through the company’s website. Think of a few specific questions about the company or the role. This can really make you stand out. When you’re done, they should give you a timeframe on when you’ll hear about next steps. If all went well, you’ll either get asked to do another phone interview, or you’ll be invited to their offices for an onsite.
The onsite interview
An onsite interview happens in person, at the company’s office. If you’re not local, it’s common for companies to pay for a flight and hotel room for you. The onsite usually consists of 2–6 individual, one-on-one technical interviews (usually in a small conference room). Each interview will be about an hour and have the same basic form as a phone screen—technical questions, bookended by some chitchat at the beginning and a chance for you to ask questions at the end. The major difference between onsite technical interviews and phone interviews though: you’ll be coding on a whiteboard. This is awkward at first. No autocomplete, no debugging tools, no delete button…ugh. The good news is, after some practice you get used to it. Before your onsite, practice writing code on a whiteboard (in a pinch, a pencil and paper are fine). Some tips:
Start in the top-most left corner of the whiteboard. This gives you the most room. You’ll need more space than you think.
Leave a blank line between each line as you write your code. Makes it much easier to add things in later.
Take an extra second to decide on your variable names. Don’t rush this part. It might seem like a waste of time, but using more descriptive variable names ultimately saves you time because it makes you less likely to get confused as you write the rest of your code.
If a technical phone interview is a sprint, an onsite is a marathon. The day can get really long. Best to keep it open—don’t make other plans for the afternoon or evening. When things go well, you’ wrap-up by chatting with the CEO or some other director. This is half an interview, half the company trying to impress you. They may invite you to get drinks with the team after hours. All told, a long day of onsite interviews could look something like this:
10am-12pm: two back-to-back technical interviews, each about an hour.
12pm-1pm: one or several engineers will take you to lunch, perhaps in the company’s fancy office cafeteria.
1pm-4pm: three back-to-back technical interviews, each about an hour.
4pm-5pm: interview with the CEO or some sort of director.
Code tests aren’t ubiquitous, but they seem to be gaining in popularity. They’re far more common at startups, or places where your ability to deliver right away is more important than your ability to grow. You’ll receive a description of an app or service, a rough time constraint for writing your code, and a deadline for when to turn it in. The deadline is usually negotiable. Here's an example problem: Write a basic “To-Do” app. Unit test the core functionality. As a bonus, add a “reminders” feature. Try to spend no more than 8 hours on it, and send in what you have by Friday with a small write-up. Take a crack at the “bonus” features if they include any. At the very least, write up how you would implement it. If they’re hiring for people with knowledge of a particular framework, they might tell you what tech to use. Otherwise, it’ll be up to you. Use what you’re most comfortable with. You want this code to show you at your best. Some places will offer to pay you for your time. It's rare, but some places will even invite you to work with them in their office for a few days, as a "trial.") Do I need to know this "big O" stuff? Big O notation is the language we use for talking about the efficiency of data structures and algorithms. Will it come up in your interviews? Well, it depends. There are different types of interviews. There’s the classic algorithmic coding interview, sometimes called the “Google-style whiteboard interview.” It’s focused on data structures and algorithms (queues and stacks, binary search, etc). That’s what our full course prepares you for. It's how the big players interview. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, LinkedIn, etc. For startups and smaller shops, it’s a mixed bag. Most will ask at least a few algorithmic questions. But they might also include some role-specific stuff, like Java questions or SQL questions for a backend web engineer. They’ll be especially interested in your ability to ship code without much direction. You might end up doing a code test or pair-programming exercise instead of a whiteboarding session. To make sure you study for the right stuff, you should ask your recruiter what to expect. Send an email with a question like, “Is this interview going to cover data structures and algorithms? Or will it be more focused around coding in X language.” They’ll be happy to tell you. If you've never learned about data structures and algorithms, or you're feeling a little rusty, check out our Intuitive Guide to Data Structures and Algorithms. Which programming language should I use? Companies usually let you choose, in which case you should use your most comfortable language. If you know a bunch of languages, prefer one that lets you express more with fewer characters and fewer lines of code, like Python or Ruby. It keeps your whiteboard cleaner. Try to stick with the same language for the whole interview, but sometimes you might want to switch languages for a question. E.g., processing a file line by line will be far easier in Python than in C++. Sometimes, though, your interviewer will do this thing where they have a pet question that’s, for example, C-specific. If you list C on your resume, they’ll ask it. So keep that in mind! If you’re not confident with a language, make that clear on your resume. Put your less-strong languages under a header like ‘Working Knowledge.’ What should I wear? A good rule of thumb is to dress a tiny step above what people normally wear to the office. For most west coast tech companies, the standard digs are just jeans and a t-shirt. Ask your recruiter what the office is like if you’re worried about being too casual. Should I send a thank-you note? Thank-you notes are nice, but they aren’t really expected. Be casual if you send one. No need for a hand-calligraphed note on fancy stationery. Opt for a short email to your recruiter or the hiring manager. Thank them for helping you through the process, and ask them to relay your thanks to your interviewers. 1) Coding Interview Tips How to get better at technical interviews without practicing Chitchat like a pro. Before diving into code, most interviewers like to chitchat about your background. They're looking for:
Metacognition about coding. Do you think about how to code well?
Ownership/leadership. Do you see your work through to completion? Do you fix things that aren't quite right, even if you don't have to?
Communication. Would chatting with you about a technical problem be useful or painful?
You should have at least one:
example of an interesting technical problem you solved
example of an interpersonal conflict you overcame
example of leadership or ownership
story about what you should have done differently in a past project
piece of trivia about your favorite language, and something you do and don't like about said language
question about the company's product/business
question about the company's engineering strategy (testing, Scrum, etc)
Nerd out about stuff. Show you're proud of what you've done, you're amped about what they're doing, and you have opinions about languages and workflows. Communicate. Once you get into the coding questions, communication is key. A candidate who needed some help along the way but communicated clearly can be even better than a candidate who breezed through the question. Understand what kind of problem it is. There are two types of problems:
Coding. The interviewer wants to see you write clean, efficient code for a problem.
"I have to at least look at all of the items, so I can't do better than O(n)O(n)."
"The brute force approach is to test all possibilities, which is O(n^2)O(n2)."
"The answer will contain n^2n2 items, so I must at least spend that amount of time."
Get your thoughts down. It's easy to trip over yourself. Focus on getting your thoughts down first and worry about the details at the end. Call a helper function and keep moving. If you can't immediately think of how to implement some part of your algorithm, big or small, just skip over it. Write a call to a reasonably-named helper function, say "this will do X" and keep going. If the helper function is trivial, you might even get away with never implementing it. Don't worry about syntax. Just breeze through it. Revert to English if you have to. Just say you'll get back to it. Leave yourself plenty of room. You may need to add code or notes in between lines later. Start at the top of the board and leave a blank line between each line. Save off-by-one checking for the end. Don't worry about whether your for loop should have "<<" or "<=<=." Write a checkmark to remind yourself to check it at the end. Just get the general algorithm down. Use descriptive variable names. This will take time, but it will prevent you from losing track of what your code is doing. Use names_to_phone_numbers instead of nums. Imply the type in the name. Functions returning booleans should start with "is_*". Vars that hold a list should end with "s." Choose standards that make sense to you and stick with them. Clean up when you're done. Walk through your solution by hand, out loud, with an example input. Actually write down what values the variables hold as the program is running—you don't win any brownie points for doing it in your head. This'll help you find bugs and clear up confusion your interviewer might have about what you're doing. Look for off-by-one errors. Should your for loop use a "<=<=" instead of a "<<"? Test edge cases. These might include empty sets, single-item sets, or negative numbers. Bonus: mention unit tests! Don't be boring. Some interviewers won't care about these cleanup steps. If you're unsure, say something like, "Then I'd usually check the code against some edge cases—should we do that next?" Practice. In the end, there's no substitute for running practice questions. Actually write code with pen and paper. Be honest with yourself. It'll probably feel awkward at first. Good. You want to get over that awkwardness now so you're not fumbling when it's time for the real interview. 2) Tricks For Getting Unstuck During a Coding Interview Getting stuck during a coding interview is rough. If you weren’t in an interview, you might take a break or ask Google for help. But the clock is ticking, and you don’t have Google. You just have an empty whiteboard, a smelly marker, and an interviewer who’s looking at you expectantly. And all you can think about is how stuck you are. You need a lifeline for these moments—like a little box that says “In Case of Emergency, Break Glass.” Inside that glass box? A list of tricks for getting unstuck. Here’s that list of tricks. When you’re stuck on getting started 1) Write a sample input on the whiteboard and turn it into the correct output "by hand." Notice the process you use. Look for patterns, and think about how to implement your process in code. Trying to reverse a string? Write “hello” on the board. Reverse it “by hand”—draw arrows from each character’s current position to its desired position. Notice the pattern: it looks like we’re swapping pairs of characters, starting from the outside and moving in. Now we’re halfway to an algorithm. 2) Solve a simpler version of the problem. Remove or simplify one of the requirements of the problem. Once you have a solution, see if you can adapt that approach for the original question. Trying to find the k-largest element in a set? Walk through finding the largest element, then the second largest, then the third largest. Generalizing from there to find the k-largest isn’t so bad. 3) Start with an inefficient solution. Even if it feels stupidly inefficient, it’s often helpful to start with something that’ll return the right answer. From there, you just have to optimize your solution. Explain to your interviewer that this is only your first idea, and that you suspect there are faster solutions. Suppose you were given two lists of sorted numbers and asked to find the median of both lists combined. It’s messy, but you could simply:
Concatenate the arrays together into a new array.
Sort the new array.
Return the value at the middle index.
Notice that you could’ve also arrived at this algorithm by using trick (2): Solve a simpler version of the problem. “How would I find the median of one sorted list of numbers? Just grab the item at the middle index. Now, can I adapt that approach for getting the median of two sorted lists?” When you’re stuck on finding optimizations 1) Look for repeat work. If your current solution goes through the same data multiple times, you’re doing unnecessary repeat work. See if you can save time by looking through the data just once. Say that inside one of your loops, there’s a brute-force operation to find an element in an array. You’re repeatedly looking through items that you don’t have to. Instead, you could convert the array to a lookup table to dramatically improve your runtime. 2) Look for hints in the specifics of the problem. Is the input array sorted? Is the binary tree balanced? Details like this can carry huge hints about the solution. If it didn’t matter, your interviewer wouldn’t have brought it up. It’s a strong sign that the best solution to the problem exploits it. Suppose you’re asked to find the first occurrence of a number in a sorted array. The fact that the array is sorted is a strong hint—take advantage of that fact by using a binary search. Sometimes interviewers leave the question deliberately vague because they want you to ask questions to unearth these important tidbits of context. So ask some questions at the beginning of the problem. 3) Throw somedata structuresat the problem. Can you save time by using the fast lookups of a hash table? Can you express the relationships between data points as a graph? Look at the requirements of the problem and ask yourself if there’s a data structure that has those properties. 4) Establish bounds on space and runtime. Think out loud about the parameters of the problem. Try to get a sense for how fast your algorithm could possibly be:
“I have to at least look at all the items, so I can’t do better than O(n)O(n) ↴ time”.
“The brute force approach is to test all possibilities, which is O(n^2)O(n2) time. So the question is whether or not I can beat that time.”
“The answer will contain n^2n2 items, so I must at least spend that amount of time.”
When All Else Fails 1) Make it clear where you are. State what you know, what you’re trying to do, and highlight the gap between the two. The clearer you are in expressing exactly where you’re stuck, the easier it is for your interviewer to help you. 2) Pay attention to your interviewer. If she asks a question about something you just said, there’s probably a hint buried in there. Don’t worry about losing your train of thought—drop what you’re doing and dig into her question. Relax. You’resupposedto get stuck. Interviewers choose hard problems on purpose. They want to see how you poke at a problem you don’t immediately know how to solve. Seriously. If you don’t get stuck and just breeze through the problem, your interviewer’s evaluation might just say “Didn’t get a good read on candidate’s problem-solving process—maybe she’d already seen this interview question before?” On the other hand, if you do get stuck, use one of these tricks to get unstuck, and communicate clearly with your interviewer throughout...that’s how you get an evaluation like, “Great problem-solving skills. Hire.” 3) Fixing Impostor Syndrome in Coding Interviews “It's a fluke that I got this job interview...” “I studied for weeks, but I’m still not prepared...” “I’m not actually good at this. They’re going to see right through me...” If any of these thoughts resonate with you, you're not alone. They are so common they have a name: impostor syndrome. It’s that feeling like you’re on the verge of being exposed for what you really are—an impostor. A fraud. Impostor syndrome is like kryptonite to coding interviews. It makes you give up and go silent. You might stop asking clarifying questions because you’re afraid they’ll sound too basic. Or you might neglect to think out loud at the whiteboard, fearing you’ll say something wrong and sound incompetent. You know you should speak up, but the fear of looking like an impostor makes that really, really hard. Here’s the good news: you’renotan impostor. You just feel like an impostor because of some common cognitive biases about learning and knowledge. Once you understand these cognitive biases—where they come from and how they work—you can slowly fix them. You can quiet your worries about being an impostor and keep those negative thoughts from affecting your interviews.
Everything you could know
Here’s how impostor syndrome works. Software engineering is a massive field. There’s a huge universe of things you could know. Huge. In comparison to the vast world of things you could know, the stuff you actually know is just a tiny sliver: That’s the first problem. It feels like you don’t really know that much, because you only know a tiny sliver of all the stuff there is to know.
The expanding universe
It gets worse: counterintuitively, as you learn more, your sliver of knowledge feels like it'sshrinking. That's because you brush up against more and more things you don’t know yet. Whole disciplines like machine learning, theory of computation, and embedded systems. Things you can't just pick up in an afternoon. Heavy bodies of knowledge that take months to understand. So the universe of things you could know seems to keep expanding faster and faster—much faster than your tiny sliver of knowledge is growing. It feels like you'll never be able to keep up.
What everyone else knows
Here's another common cognitive bias: we assume that because something is easy for us, it must be easy for everyone else. So when we look at our own skills, we assume they're not unique. But when we look at other people's skills, we notice the skills they have that we don't have. The result? We think everyone’s knowledge is a superset of our own: This makes us feel like everyone else is ahead of us. Like we're always a step behind. But the truth is more like this: There's a whole area of stuff you know that neither Aysha nor Bruno knows. An area you're probably blind to, because you're so focused on the stuff you don't know. We’ve all had flashes of realizing this. For me, it was seeing the back end code wizard on my team—the one that always made me feel like an impostor—spend an hour trying to center an image on a webpage.
It's a problem of focus
Focusing on what you don't know causes you to underestimate what you do know. And that's what causes impostor syndrome. By looking at the vast (and expanding) universe of things you could know, you feel like you hardly know anything. And by looking at what Aysha and Bruno know that you don't know, you feel like you're a step behind. And interviews make you really focus on what you don't know. You focus on what could go wrong. The knowledge gaps your interviewers might find. The questions you might not know how to answer. But remember: Just because Aysha and Bruno know some things you don't know, doesn't mean you don't also know things Aysha and Bruno don't know. And more importantly, everyone's body of knowledge is just a teeny-tiny sliver of everything they could learn. We all have gaps in our knowledge. We all have interview questions we won't be able to answer. You're not a step behind. You just have a lot of stuff you don't know yet. Just like everyone else. 4) The 24 Hours Before Your Interview
Feeling anxious? That’s normal. Your body is telling you you’re about to do something that matters.
The twenty-four hours before your onsite are about finding ways to maximize your performance. Ideally, you wanna be having one of those days, where elegant code flows effortlessly from your fingertips, and bugs dare not speak your name for fear you'll squash them. You need to get your mind and body in The Zone™ before you interview, and we've got some simple suggestions to help. 5) Why You're Hitting Dead Ends In Whiteboard Interviews
The coding interview is like a maze
Listening vs. holding your train of thought
Finally! After a while of shooting in the dark and frantically fiddling with sample inputs on the whiteboard, you've came up with an algorithm for solving the coding question your interviewer gave you. Whew. Such a relief to have a clear path forward. To not be flailing anymore. Now you're cruising, getting ready to code up your solution. When suddenly, your interviewer throws you a curve ball. "What if we thought of the problem this way?" You feel a tension we've all felt during the coding interview: "Try to listen to what they're saying...but don't lose your train of thought...ugh, I can't do both!" This is a make-or-break moment in the coding interview. And so many people get it wrong. Most candidates end up only half understanding what their interviewer is saying. Because they're only half listening. Because they're desperately clinging to their train of thought. And it's easy to see why. For many of us, completely losing track of what we're doing is one of our biggest coding interview fears. So we devote half of our mental energy to clinging to our train of thought. To understand why that's so wrong, we need to understand the difference between what we see during the coding interview and what our interviewer sees.
The programming interview maze
Working on a coding interview question is like walking through a giant maze. You don't know anything about the shape of the maze until you start wandering around it. You might know vaguely where the solution is, but you don't know how to get there. As you wander through the maze, you might find a promising path (an approach, a way to break down the problem). You might follow that path for a bit. Suddenly, your interviewer suggests a different path: But from what you can see so far of the maze, your approach has already gotten you halfway there! Losing your place on your current path would mean a huge step backwards. Or so it seems. That's why people hold onto their train of thought instead of listening to their interviewer. Because from what they can see, it looks like they're getting somewhere! But here's the thing: your interviewer knows the whole maze. They've asked this question 100 times. I'm not exaggerating: if you interview candidates for a year, you can easily end up asking the same question over 100 times. So if your interviewer is suggesting a certain path, you can bet it leads to an answer. And your seemingly great path? There's probably a dead end just ahead that you haven't seen yet: Or it could just be a much longer route to a solution than you think it is. That actually happens pretty often—there's an answer there, but it's more complicated than you think.
Hitting a dead end is okay. Failing to listen is not.
Your interviewer probably won't fault you for going down the wrong path at first. They've seen really smart engineers do the same thing. They understand it's because you only have a partial view of the maze. They might have let you go down the wrong path for a bit to see if you could keep your thinking organized without help. But now they want to rush you through the part where you discover the dead end and double back. Not because they don't believe you can manage it yourself. But because they want to make sure you have enough time to finish the question. But here's something they will fault you for: failing to listen to them. Nobody wants to work with an engineer who doesn't listen. So when you find yourself in that crucial coding interview moment, when you're torn between holding your train of thought and considering the idea your interviewer is suggesting...remember this: Listening to your interviewer is themostimportant thing. Take what they're saying and run with it. Think of the next steps that follow from what they're saying. Even if it means completely leaving behind the path you were on. Trust the route your interviewer is pointing you down. Because they can see the whole maze. 6)How To Get The Most Out Of Your Coding Interview Practice Sessions When you start practicing for coding interviews, there’s a lot to cover. You’ll naturally wanna brush up on technical questions. But how you practice those questions will make a big difference in how well you’re prepared. Here’re a few tips to make sure you get the most out of your practice sessions. Track your weak spots One of the hardest parts of practicing is knowing what to practice. Tracking what you struggle with helps answer that question. So grab a fresh notebook. After each question, look back and ask yourself, “What did I get wrong about this problem at first?” Take the time to write down one or two things you got stuck on, and what helped you figure them out. Compare these notes to our tips for getting unstuck. After each full practice session, read through your entire running list. Read it at the beginning of each practice session too. This’ll add a nice layer of rigor to your practice, so you’re really internalizing the lessons you’re learning. Use an actual whiteboard Coding on a whiteboard is awkward at first. You have to write out every single character, and you can’t easily insert or delete blocks of code. Use your practice sessions to iron out that awkwardness. Run a few problems on a piece of paper or, if you can, a real whiteboard. A few helpful tips for handwriting code:
Start in the top-left corner. You want all the room you can get.
Leave blank space between each line of code. This makes it much easier to add things later.
Slow down. Take an extra second to think of descriptive variable names. You might be tempted to move faster by using short variable names, but that actually ends up costing more time. It’ll make your code harder to debug!
Set a timer Get a feel for the time pressure of an actual interview. You should be able to finish a problem in 30–45 minutes, including debugging your code at the end. If you’re just starting out and the timer adds too much stress, put this technique on the shelf. Add it in later as you start to get more comfortable with solving problems. Think out loud Like writing code on a whiteboard, this is an acquired skill. It feels awkward at first. But your interviewer will expect you to think out loud during the interview, so you gotta power through that awkwardness. A good trick to get used to talking out loud: Grab a buddy. Another engineer would be great, but you can also do this with a non-technical friend. Have your buddy sit in while you talk through a problem. Better yet—try loading up one of our questions on an iPad and giving that to your buddy to use as a script! Set aside a specific time of day to practice. Give yourself an hour each day to practice. Commit to practicing around the same time, like after you eat dinner. This helps you form a stickier habit of practicing. Prefer small, daily doses of practice to doing big cram sessions every once in a while. Distributing your practice sessions helps you learn more with less time and effort in the long run. part -2 will be upcoming in another post !
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