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9 days ago
Current It is my birthday! Happy birthday to me.
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17 days ago
This morning I shaved my head; I am now bald. I had fairly long hair—for a man—for several years. It shall take some time for me to get used to having no hair at all.
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4 mos ago
Things are not so good sometimes. But, everything will be alright in the end.
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5 mos ago
I have one (1) very good friend.
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Wish granted. Unfortunately, I lost it somewhere. Oh well.

I wish for Spam to finally be put out of its misery.
This thread's gimmick seems mildly exploitative.

Pretoria Qualified: Best of a Kind.


Kelly Eze lounged in her oversized chair, sipping a fizzy, sugary, beverage through a straw as her eyes darted between three different holographic screens lighting up the dark bedroom around her. A vaguely spherical controller of some kind was grasped in her left hand, with which she seemed to be manipulating the finer details of the various displayed projections. With her right arm she made gestures to signal broader strokes, switching between pages or scrolling through new tools in her program. She'd only recently woken up, despite it being well past noon in Nairobi, though she wouldn't have been able to tell from the sunlight. Even if she hadn't had her blinds shut, the city sky outside her apartment was usually dark grey even on the clearest days—denied the sun's rays by persistent smog from massive urban and industrial over-development. Kelly was barely dressed, as well, black and blue polka dot pajamas and a sock from two different pairs, one solid red and the other a tiger pattern, her only clothes. Her head was shaved to a buzz cut so she wouldn't have to keep her hair out of her eyes, and she had little reason to care about the rest of her appearance (or hygiene); she probably wouldn't see any other human beings today, certainly not in person.

Despite being totally unkempt, though, Kelly was not some lazy do-nothing 20-something idly wasting her time surfing the internet. No, she was a highly skilled professional, and lucky enough to be making a few thousand dollars an hour right now. The eminently talented Miss Eze was one of the leading software developers of NVIGORATE, the cybersecurity branch of Pretoria Qualified. She and a team of other hotshot devs from across the world were working on a project together, with Kelly—the closest among them to PQ's headquarters in Pretoria—tasked with coordinating their efforts. Their project was called 'NVISION', NVIGORATE's first foray into the world of consumer software. NVISION was to be an entirely new operating system, built from the ground up with a separate architecture from the systems NVIGORATE developed for in-house use by the execs at PQ—the Van der Sandts had been insistent that NVISION's proliferation not compromise PQ's own cybersecurity. The project was in the earlier phases still, but was coming along well. Kelly and her team were competent, and even if the specifications for NVISION were for a basic, affordable, easy-to-use operating system alternative, each of the developers wanted it to be something they could be proud to add to their resumes.

PQ had hired Kelly years ago, back before the company's supremely elderly CEO had celebrated his 100th birthday. She'd defied the trope of the blackhat gone good, finding honest work assisting in cyberspace solutions for smaller companies from her teenage years. When she did sign on with Pretoria, it had been entirely about the money: their cheques were simply larger and had more zeros than the ones she'd been earning before. PQ quickly found her to be a useful asset, and it only took a few years for her to climb the ranks and find herself assisting in developing NVIGORATE's big, breakout mass-market project. She knew better than to cock it up. If she got this right, it could be her ticket to the big leagues. If she was lucky, maybe she'd be boarding a flight to HQ in Pretoria before the year was out.

But, then she'd probably have to get dressed in the morning. Maybe be expected to grow her hair out. Still: worth it for the pay.

((Backdated to Q3))
I refuse to grant that. That's too mean.

I wish people made kinder wishes.
Granted. Your mind is permanently locked into focusing on the one thing you most want to focus on right now, as you are reading this post. You will never be able to think about anything else.

I wish I was a better person.

Pretoria Qualified: Best of a Kind.


Johannes van der Sandt slowly made his way down the hallway, high in the towering PQ headquarters in the African metropolis of Pretoria. His wheelchair, a robust but inexpensive contraption, stood a stark contrast to the man sitting in it—a frail old centenarian that was also one of the most obscenely wealthy multi-trillionaires on planet Earth. He'd bought his wheelchair used, eager to get a deal on the device that allowed him to still navigate his company's offices and personally manage its corporate affairs, in spite of his advanced state. His head shaved was shaved bald, and he was dressed in a fine black suit with an orange tie, the corporate colour of his company. He was not the only one in the hallway. Travelling in either direction, his various younger underlings gave him a polite and respectful wave or nod or smile as they passed him, eager to seem personable to the elder statesman of their employer. Johannes was known to have something of a temper, and there were rumours of him twisting the law to have employees that gave him impertinent looks terminated without pay. Some of the more conspiracy minded even said that anyone who crossed Mr. Van der Sandt was liable to be taken from their homes in the night, dragged off to a test chamber to be experimented on by PQ's genetic engineering department. They were probably just silly rumours, but they gave an accurate depiction of the atmosphere with which the old man carried himself: solemn and retributive were the Van der Sandt family's patriarchs.

A wall of glass flanked the wheelchair-bound CEO to his right, giving him a look out over the bustling downtown urban centre his company had helped to create. It was for the PQ that this skyline of towering skyscrapers was even still called 'Pretoria'. Decades ago, when Mr. Van der Sandt was only in his 30's and merely the company's heir apparent, the PQ's lobbying efforts had been the reason the city had avoided a politically influenced name change; it would not do for Pretoria Qualified to be based out of a city called 'Tshwane'. Since then, PQ had remained the lifeblood of Pretoria's economy, serving as the city's largest employer and the largest business presence by several orders of magnitude. The city government—and, eventually, the national government—became irrelevant, their duties to the city replaced by a private corporation that simply had more money to work with to solve the city's ills than City Hall could ever hope to have. Of course, the Van der Sandt family's efforts at outreach had not been charitable: it made managing a company so much easier when you enforced your own regulations and wrote your own laws.

At the far end of the hallway was Johannes' destination. Two guards, armed with latest small arms that PQ's corporate friends at SIMA had to offer, opened the heavy metal door for their chief executive before he had even come within twenty feet of the meeting room. They closed it after him just as quickly, staring daggers at any employees milling about the hall that had lingered their eyes on it too long. Pretoria Qualified was a closed corporation, and meetings of its management were equally closed, even to the most high ranking of non-family employees.

"Hello, Father." a young man's voice carried over the length of the room.

Johannes smiled, the first time his expression had changed from a persistent scowl since he made the descent from the top floor down to the meeting hall. The man addressing him was his grandson, not his son, but he'd taken up calling him 'father' ever since his real father had died.

The grandson checked his watch, an inexpensive thing that did not look like it belonged on a trillionaire's wrist. "Just on time, as always. One of these days the elevator will stall for a moment and you'll be a minute behind."

Mr. Van der Sandt nodded, sighing contentedly to himself as to wheeled over to the opposite end of the table from his grandson. The younger Van der Sandt had left the spot nearest the door open to his grandfather, as a courtesy. The boy had always been polite and respectful that way. "You will never live to see that happen, my boy!" the elder man replied. Curiously to any observers, of which there were curiously none, all other seats at the table were conspicuously empty: only Markus and Johannes seemed to be in attendance.

Markus smiled along. He enjoyed his grandfather's company, sincerely. He felt little remorse that his biological father had died; he'd always been a dispassionate man. This way, he not only was closer to succeeding as heir to the Van der Sandt fortune, but he also had better company to enjoy along the way. Regardless, it was time to get to business.

"I've been looking over the LAS file," Markus van der Sandt began, "and things seem to be proceeding along the lines of our second projection, unfortunately. They seem to have moved in defense of the actions we'd planned in P1. P2 is still an option, but you already know my thoughts on that."

"Yes, I know. You're a softie, Markus." Johannes had by now fixed his wheelchair in position at the table's head.

"Soft is the wiser course of action here. P3 is our best bet to—".

"I don't make bets, son." Johannes interjected. "Our best 'option'".

"Right," Markus conceded, "our best option, then, to achieve the goals you've sought out, is P3. Collaborating will be billions less costly than trying to muscle them out at this point. With P1 and P2 there was always the option something would be lost. Can you at least admit that much?"

"Hmph. P1 and P2 have their risks, I will concede that. So does your plan, Markus. In its case, there's the risk they will withhold something from us, and the risk they will say 'no'."

"There's no obvious impetus for them to be unreasonable, since we haven't moved on P1 or P2 yet. They have much to gain from collaboration with us as well. I'm confident they would hear me out."

Johannes raised a brow. "Hear you out? Our business with them regards me personally."

"And that is precisely why it shouldn't be you in Austin. It will create the appearance of desperation, for reasons that are obvious to us both. If it's me, we will appear serious, but not supplicant. It is not enough for us to have our best foot forward on this file: it needs to be the foot that isn't in need of a shoe."

There was silence in the room. For perhaps twenty seconds, Johannes silently deliberated on his grandson's remarks. This was an important thing to him, and not a matter he felt entirely comfortable delegating to an inferior. Yet, if he entrusted anyone with the matter, it would be Markus.

"Very well," came the eventual reply, in a solemn tone and as quiet as Markus could be expected to hear. He quickly added, "I hope that you will succeed."

"'Hope'?" Markus said, moving the LAS file underneath a stack of papers and sliding over a new set of documents—the rest of today's business—to his grandfather's end of the table. "Van der Sandts do not hope. You expect me to succeed."

Johannes found his smile again.

"That's my boy."

Pretoria Qualified: Best of a Kind.


A multicultural group of vaguely businesslike looking men and women of various ages sit in a liberally sunlit board room, smiling gleefully to each other in their business-casual wear. They don't actually say anything to one another, just mouthing random muted nonsense to their coworkers as the narrator speaks over top of them. He uses a lot of pleasant sounding buzzwords, like 'success' and 'potential', extolling to the probably miserably poor listener on some street corner somewhere how great it is to actually be rich enough to matter in life—just, saying it more subtly than that. The camera pans out of the room, following a window into a shot of the skyline of a generic looking megalopolis that could pass well enough for whatever city the viewer happens to be living in. Various stereotypical markers of economic development are shown; skyscrapers under construction by small armies of autonomous cranes with a handful of human supervisors, a gaggle of stylish young women with their eyes glued to the latest needless electronic entertainment device, the newest hotrods zipping down luxury superhighways reserved for driverless cars at humanly impossible to manage speeds, etc. The impression given by the narrator—a middle-aged British man speaking in perfect received pronunciation—is that society is going just swell, and all of the people pictured are benefiting from the preeminence of the megacorporations previously depicted in the boardroom scene.



But then, the scene shifts to one of the proles, a young adult male in working class garb, standing at the ground entrance of a Pretoria Qualified skyrise. He has a beverage in his hand from a popular contemporary fast food joint, both to show that he's not suffering too badly and to help endear him to the viewer at home, who will see his beverage as being from whichever restaurant the advertising AI has determined is their favourite. He glances upward at the tall building, arching his back slightly more than is necessary to emphasize the enormity of it. As he simple-mindedly gawks, a woman with supermodel looks who for some reason is merely an attendant for the building the man is staring at goes above and beyond what she's paid to do and actually steps outside to personally greet the man. Her voice, very friendly and welcoming and in whichever language and accent is predominant in the region the commercial is being played, is the first we hear besides the narrator's. The woman isn't actually speaking, but is simply dubbed over after the fact, her mouth digitally altered to look like she's saying what she is; the model only spoke English and sounded kind of nasally. She invites the man to open up an account with PQ, a proposition that surprises him so much he drops his drink. A small, cute looking janitorial robot cleans it up for him immediately. After it does so, the attendant laughs, and ushers the man next door. She introduces him to a busy-looking bank branch labelled 'PQ+'. All of the people standing in line there are obviously not wealthy, just regular working class slobs. The man ignores the busy line, instead escorted into the building by the attendant. She introduces him to Pretoria Qualified's newest money-making venture: PQ+, the brand new "working man's" brand of financial services offered by Pretoria Qualified.

The comforting voice of the narrator returns to explain some of those new services. As a series of disclaimers rapidly scroll across the bottom of the screen in an obscenely small font size, the narrator focuses in on one service in particular: the "orange book", an investment plan offered by PQ+, which the narrator unreasonably promises will help give opportunity for anyone to join the ranks of the megarich elites shown in the boardroom in the previous scene. To emphasize the point, the camera returns to the boardroom, panning to the side slightly to show that the same Average Joe introduced to PQ+ by the PQ attendant was actually a member of the board all along, just outside of camera. The shifts in time over the course of the commercial aren't fully explained but it's assumed people at home can get the idea. The implication is that the orange book investment plan will enable any random guy off the street to become a corporate executive. Probably not believable, but people will get the impression that it's worth their time anyway, even if the returns are dismal and it's hard to back out of the program once you're in.



The ad ends with the generic orange PQ logo, sans plus sign, over top a white screen. The white screen quickly dissipates to show the vibrant city skyline again, just as PQ's slogan, "Best of a Kind", appears beneath the logo. The narrator says it aloud to bring home the point, and the commercial gives way to some other company's corporate propaganda.
Pretoria Qualified






Corporation Slogan: Best of a Kind.

CEO Name & Age: Johannes van der Sandt III, Aged 104.

Headquarters: Pretoria, South Africa.

Major Industries: Finances.

Minor Industries: Cyber Security & Genetic Engineering.

Starting Trait: Private Wealth; Company starts as a Closed Corporation and with +1d50 Billions.

Brief History & Description

Originally a personal accounting firm catering to the wealthy Boer elite of Apartheid-era South Africa, Pretoria Qualified (then known as 'Pretoria Qualified Accountants') managed to grow into something grander through taking cunning advantage of the social changes that rocked that nation in its last dying years. Its corporate policy controlled by its sole owner, Johannes van der Sandt (grandfather of the current CEO), PQ was able to turn on a dime and offer its wholehearted support to the desegregation movement once its victory in the country had become certain. The company began rejecting business with pro-apartheid clients and replaced them with the party elites of the African National Congress, following the trail of money and power to South Africa's new ruling class. PQ's enrichment allowed them to entrench themselves in all aspects of the financial sector, branching out from accounting into banking and insurance services. The changing arrangements of South African politics proved especially beneficial when many of PQ's competitors chose not to follow Pretoria Qualified's lead, opting instead to relocate themselves out of country.

They would not be able to enjoy respite from the Van der Sandt family for long, however. Not content with dominance of the finance industry in lowly South Africa, PQ quickly spread its influence across the globe, riding a tide of globalization to acquire themselves offices and clients in Europe, America, and even East Asia. The rapid pace of technological progress of the era helped facilitate this growth, as online banking and the rise of cryptocurrencies permitted PQ to offer its menagerie of financial services to clients across the entire globe. Throughout it all, though, the PQ would keep its focus placed squarely on a single demographic: the rich. International citizens with money to spare became Pretoria Qualified's bread and butter, and the billions they gleefully added to the PQ's coffers allowed the company to invest itself in world-class, in-house cybersecurity, further endearing itself to its mega-rich—and therefore paranoid and anxious—clientele.

The company's third CEO, also named Johannes van der Sandt, has led the company for some decades now. The patriarch of the PQ's founding and still majority-owning family, the latest Van der Sandt has bent the PQ to his whims of accommodating a particular interest of his, in an industry previously outside of the PQ's area of expertise: genetic engineering. Wishing himself never to die, the centenarian CEO has thus far had numerous organ transplants and biotechnical and cybernetic additions to his failing body, but firmly believes the true secret of immortality to be in genetic engineering. He has sought out and hired a vast array of the world's best genetic engineers to busy themselves finding a way to make their wheelchair-bound, multi-trillionaire employer never have to let go of his plethora of dollars.
I would like to know the details behind the dice rolling before I'll express any intent to pursue this. My usual stance is there should be enough info I could roll the dice myself to see how it all works. It's currently completely unknown how the IPO application turns into what's visible in the character tab.


I am echoing this sentiment but also working on developing an application in the mean time regardless. It would be nice to have some more information.
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