I have been lurking on this board for a few years. I decided the other day to finally create an account so I could come out of lurk mode. As you might guess from my id I was able to retire at the beginning of this year on a significantly accelerated timetable thanks to the 20x return from my AMD stock and option investments since 2016. submitted by
I spent my career working on electronics and software for the satellite industry. We made heavy use of FPGAs and more often than not Xilinx FPGAs since they had a radiation tolerant line. I thought I would summarize some of the ways they were used in and around the development process. My experience is going to be very different than the datacenter settings in the last few years. The AI and big data stuff was a pipe dream back then.
In the olden times of the 90s we used CPUs which unlike modern processors did not include much in the way of I/O and memory controller. The computer board designs graduated from CPU + a bunch of ICs (much like the original IBM PC design) to a CPU + Xilinx FPGA + RAM + ROM and maybe a 5V or 3.3V linear voltage regulator. Those old FPGAs were programmed before they were soldered to the PCB using a dedicated programming unit attached to a PC. Pretty much the same way ROMs were programmed. At the time FPGAs gate capacity was small enough that it was still feasible to design their implementation using schematics. An engineer would draw up logic gates and flip-flops just like you would if using discrete logic ICs and then compile it to the FPGA binary and burn it to the FPGA using a programmer box like a ROM. If you screwed it up you had to buy another FPGA chip, they were not erasable. The advantage of using the FPGA is that it was common to implement a custom I/O protocol to talk to other FPGAs, on other boards, which might be operating A/D and D/A converters and digital I/O driver chips. As the FPGA gate capacities increased the overall board count could be decreased.
With the advent of much larger FPGAs that were in-circuit re-programmable they began to be used for prototyping ASIC designs. One project I worked on was developing a radiation hardened PowerPC processor ASIC with specialized I/O. A Xilinx FPGA was used to test the implementation at approximately half-speed. The PowerPC core was licensed IP and surrounded with bits that were developed in VHDL. In the satellite industry the volumes are typically not high enough to warrant developing ASICs but they could be fabbed on a rad-hard process while the time large capacity re-programmable FPGAs were not. Using FPGAs for prototyping the ASIC was essential because you only had one chance to get the ASIC right, it was cost and schedule prohibitive to do any respins.
Another way re-programmable FPGAs were used was for test equipment and ground stations. The flight hardware had these custom designed ASICs of all sorts which generally created data streams that would transmitted down from space. It was advantageous to test the boards without the full set of downlink and receiver hardware so a commercial FPGA board in a PC would be used to hook into the data bus in place of the radio. Similarly other test equipment would be made which emulated the data stream from the flight hardware so that the radio hardware could be tested independently. Finally the ground stations would often use FPGAs to pull in the digital data stream from the receiver radio and process the data in real-time. These FPGAs were typically programmed using VHDL but as tools progressed it became possible to program to program the entire PC + FPGA board combination using LabView or Simulink which also handled the UI. In the 2000s it was even possible to program a real-time software defined radio using these tools.
As FPGAs progressed they became much more sophisticated. Instead of only having to specify whether an I/O pin was digital input or output you could choose between high speed, low speed, serdes, analog etc. Instead of having to interface to external RAM chips they began to include banks of internal RAM. That is because FPGAs were no longer just gate arrays but included a quantity of "hard-core" functionality. The natural progression of FPGAs with hard cores brings them into direct competition with embedded processor SOCs. At the same time embedded SOCs have gained flexibility with I/O pin assignment which is very similar to what FPGAs allow.
It is important to understand that in the modern era of chip design the difference between the teams that AMD and Xilinx has for chip design is primarily at the architecture level. Low level design and validation are going to largely be the same (although they may be using different tools and best practices). There are going to be some synergies in process and there is going to be some flexibility in having more teams capable of bringing chips to market. They are going to be able to commingle the best practices between the two which is going to be a net boost to productivity for one side or the other or both. Furthermore AMD will have access to Xilinx FPGAs for design validation at cost and perhaps ahead of release and Xilinx will be able to leverage AMD's internal server clouds. The companies will also have access to a greater number of Fellow level architects and process gurus. Also AMD has internally developed IP blocks that Xilinx could leverage and vice versa. Going forward there would be savings on externally licensed IP blocks as well.
AI is all the rage these days but there are many other applications for generic FPGAs and for including field programmable gates in sophisticated SOCs. As the grand convergence continues I would not be surprised at all to see FPGA as much a key component to future chips as graphics are in an APU. If Moore’s law is slowing down then the ability to reconfigure the circuitry on the fly is a potential mitigation. At some point being able to reallocate the transistor budget on the fly is going to win out over adding more and more fixed functionality. Going a bit down the big.little path what if a core could be reconfigured on the fly to be integer heavy or 64 bit float heavy within the same transistor budget. Instead of dedicated video encodedecoders or AVX 512 that sits dark most of the time the OS can gin it up on demand. In a laptop or phone setting this could be a big improvement.
If anybody has questions I'd be happy to answer. I'm sure there are a number of other posters here with a background in electronics and chip design who can weigh in as well.
Transcript of the Tau-Chain & Agoras Monthly Video Update – August 2020
Major event of this past month: Release of the Whitepaper. Encourages everyone to read the Whitepaper because it’s going to guide our development efforts for the foreseeable future. Development is proceeding well on two major fronts: 1. Agoras Live website: Features are being added to it, only two major features are missing 2. TML: We identified ten major tasks to be completed before the next release. Three of them are optimization features which are very important for the speed and performance features of TML. In terms of time requirements, we feel very good to stay on schedule for the end of this year. We also are bringing in two extra resources to help us get there as soon as possible.
Been working on changes in the string relation, especially moving from binary string representation to unistring. The idea is that now rather than having two arguments in the term, you would have a single argument for the string. Thus, the hierarchy changes from two to one and that has an effect on speed and on the storage. So the first few numbers that we calculated showed that we are around 10% faster than with the binary string. There are some other changes that need to be made with regards to the string which he is working on.
Had to revise how we encode characters in order to be compatible with the internet. It also was the last missing piece in order to compute persistence. The reason is that the stored data has to be portable and if TML needs characters and strings internally in the same encoding as it stores its own data, we can map strings directly into files and gain lots of speed with it. The code is now pushed in the repository and can be tested. He’s also working on a TML tutorial and likely before next update, there should be something available online.
Transcribed past month’s video update. You can find it on Reddit. Also, he has done more outreach towards potential partner universities and research groups and this month the response rate was better than earlier, most likely because of the whitepaper release. Positive replies include: University of Mannheim, Trier (Computational Linguistics & Digital Humanities), research group AI KR from within the W3C (https://www.w3.org/community/aik
) articulated strong interest in getting a discussion going, particularly because they had some misconceptions about blockchain. They would like to have a Q&A session with a couple of their group members but first it’s important for us to have them read the whitepaper to get a basic understanding and then be able to ask respective questions. Other interested parties include the Computational Linguistics research group of the University of Groningen, Netherlands and also the Center for Language Technology of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. We also got connected to the Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden. Also has done some press outreach in combination with the whitepaper, trying to get respective media outlets to cover our project, but so far hasn’t gotten feedback back. Been discussing the social media strategy with Ohad and Fola, trying to be more active on our channels and have a weekly posting schedule on Twitter including non-technical and technical contests that engage with all parts of our community. Furthermore, has opened up a discussion on Discord (https://discord.gg/qZtJs78
) in the “Tau-Discussion” channel around the topics that Ohad mentioned he would first like to see discussed on Tau (see https://youtu.be/O4SFxq_3ask?t=2225):
- Definitions of what good and bad means and what better and worse means.
- The governance model over Tau.
- The specification of Tau itself and how to make it grow and evolve even more to suit wider audiences. The whole point of Tau is people collaborating in order to define Tau itself and to improve it over time, so it will improve up to infinity. This is the main thing, especially initially, that the Tau developers (or rather users) advance the platform more and more.
If you are interested in participating in the discussion, join our Discord (https://discord.gg/qZtJs78
) and post your thoughts – we’d appreciate it! Also has finished designing the bounty claiming process, so people that worked on a bounty now can claim their reward by filling out the bounty claiming form (https://forms.gle/HvksdaavuJbu4PCV8
). Been also working on revamping the original post in the Bitcointalk-Thread. It contains a lot of broken links and generally is outdated, so he’s using the whitepaper to give it a complete overhaul. With the whitepaper release, the community also got a lot more active which was great to see and thus, he dedicated more time towards supporting the community.
Finished multiple milestones with regards to the Agoras Live website: 1. Question part where people post their requests and knowledge providers can help them with missing knowledge. 2. Have been through multiple iterations of how to approach the services in the website. How the service seeker can discover new people through the website. 3. Connected the limited, static categories on the website to add more diversity to it. By adding tags, it will be easier for service seekers to find what they are looking for. 4. Onboarding: Been working on adding an onboarding step for the user, so the user chooses categories of his interest and as a result, he will find the homepage to be more personalized towards him and his interests. 5. New section to the user profile added: The service that the knowledge provider can provide. Can be added as tags or free text. 6. Search: Can filter via free text and filter by country, language, etc. 7. Been working on how to display the knowledge providers on the platform.
Improved look of the Agoras Live front page: Looks more clean. Finetuned search options. Redesigned the header. It now has notification icons. If you query a knowledge provider for an appointment, he will receive a notification about the new appointment to be approved or rejected. You can also add a user to your favorites. Front page now randomly displays users. Also implemented email templates, e.g. a thank you email upon registration or an appointment reminder. What is left to do is the session list and then the basic engine will be ready. Also needs to implement the “questions” section.
Has switched towards development of TML related features. Been working mainly on the first order logic support. Has integrated the formula parser with the TML core functionality. With this being connected, we added to TML quantified Boolean function solving capability in the same way as we get the first order logic support. It’s worth mentioning that this feature is being supported by means of the main optimized BDD primitives that we already have in the TML engine. Looking forward to make this scalable in terms of formula sizes. It’s a matter of refining the Boolean solution and doing proper tests to show this milestone to the community in a proper way.
Have been discussing the feasibility of a token swap towards ERC20 from the Omni token with exchanges and internally with the team. Also has been discussing the social media strategy with Kilian. As we update with the new visual identity and the branding, it’s a good time to boost our social media channels and look ready for the next iteration of our look and feel. Continuing on the aspects of our visual identity and design, he’s been talking to quite a number of large agencies who have been involved in some of the larger projects in the software space. One being Phantom (https://phantom.land
) who designed the DeepMind website (https://deepmind.com
), the other one being Outcast (https://theoutcastagency.com
) who have been working with Intel and SalesForce. We aren’t sure yet with which company we go but it’s been good to get insight into how they work and which steps they’d take into getting our project out to the wider audience. That whole process has been a lot of research into what kind of agencies we’d want to get involved with. Also, with the release of the whitepaper being such a big milestone in the history of the company, he’s been doing a lot of reading of that paper. We’re also looking to get more manpower involved with the TML website. Also going to hire a frontend developer for the website and the backend will be done according to Ohad’s requirements. Also, as a response of the community’s feedback towards the Omni deck not being user friendly, he did some outreach to the Omni team and introduced them to a partner exchange for Agoras Live. They have an “exchange-in-a-box” service which may help Omni to have a much more usable interface for the Omni Dex, so hopefully they will be working together to improve the usability of the Omni Dex.
Finished writing the community draft of the whitepaper. The final version will contain changes according to the community’s feedback and more elaboration on more topics that weren’t inserted in the current paper, including logics for law and about the full process of Tau. And, as usual, he’s been doing more research of second order logic, specifically, Boolean options and also analyzing the situation where the formulas in conjunctive normal form trying to extract some information from such a cnf. Also, what Juan mentioned about first order logic: People who are already familiar with TML will see that now with this change, the easiness of using TML got much more advanced. In first order formulas, expressing yourself has become much easier than before.
Q: What is the difference between Horn Second Order Logic and Krom Second Order Logic?
A: Horn and Krom are special cases of cnf (conjunctive normal form). Conjunctive normal form means the formula has the form of n conjunction between clauses. This clause and this clause while each clause is a disjunction of atoms: It’s this or this or this or that. And now any formula can be written in conjunctive form. Any formula can be brought to this form. Krom is the case where each clause contains exactly two atoms and Horn is the case where at most one atom in every clause is positive – thre rest are negated, that’s the definition.
Q: Now that the whitepaper has been released, how do you think it will affect the work of the developers?
A: We see the whitepaper as being a roadmap of development for us, so it will essentially be the vision that we are working to implement. Of course, we have to turn it into much more specific tasks, but as you saw from the detailed progress from last month, that’s exactly what we do.
Q: When can we expect the new website?
A: We’ve just updated the website with the whitepaper and the new website should be launching after we get the branding done. There’s a lot of work to be done and a lot of considerations taking place. We have to get the graphics ready and the front end done. The branding is the most important step we have to get done and once that is complete, we will launch the new website.
Q: What needs to be resolved next before we get onto a solid US exchange?
A: With the whitepaper released, that’s probably been the biggest hurdle we had to get over. At this point, we still have to confirm some elements of the plan with the US regulators and we do need to have some sort of product available. Be that the TML release or Agoras Live, there needs to be something out for people to use. So, in conjunction with the whitepaper and approval from the US regulators, we need to have a product available to get onto US exchanges.
Q: Does the team still need to get bigger to reach cruising speed, if so, how much by and in which areas?
A: Of course, any development team would like to have as many resources as possible but working with the resources we that have right now, we are making significant progress towards the two development goals that we have, both the Agoras Live website and the TML engine. But we are bringing in at least two more resources in the near future but there’s no lack of work to be done and also there’s no lack of progress.
Q: Will Prof. Carmi continue to work in the team and if so, in what capacity?
A: Sure, Prof. Carmi will continue coordinating with us. Right now, he’s working on the mathematics of certain features in the derivatives market that Agoras is planned to have, and also ongoing research in relevant logic.
Q: Will you translate the whitepaper into other languages?
A: Yes, we expect translations of the whitepaper to occur. The most important languages that comprise our community, e.g. Chinese. What languages exactly, we cannot tell right now, but mainly the most prominent languages that comprise our community.
Q: Is the roadmap on the website still correct and, when will we move to the next step?
A: We will be revamping the website soon including the roadmap that will be a summary of what’s been published in the whitepaper but the old version of the roadmap on the website is no longer up-to-date.
Q: What are the requirements for Agoras to have its own chain?
A: If the question means why Agoras doesn’t have its own chain right now, well there is no special reason. We need to reach there and we will reach there.
Q: When Agoras switches to its own chain, will you need to create a new payments system from scratch?
A: No, we won’t have to. We will have to integrate with the new payment channel but that’s something we are planning to do anyway. We will be integrating with several exchanges and several payment channels so it won’t be a huge task. Most of the heavy lifting is in the wallet and key management which will be done on the client side but we’re already planning on having more than one payment gateway anyway so having one more is no problem.
Q: When can we see Tau work with a real practical example?
A: For examples of applications of TML, we are currently working on a TML tutorial and a set of demos. Two of our developers are currently working on it and it’s going to be a big part of our next release.
Q: How can we make speaking in formal languages easier, with an example?
A: Coming up with a usable and convenient formal language is a big task which maybe it’s even safe to say no one achieved up until today. But we solve this problem indirectly yet completely by not coming up with any language but letting languages to be created and evolve over time through the internet of languages. We don’t have any solution of how to make formal languages very easy for everyone. It will be a collaborative effort over Tau together to reach there over time. You can see in the whitepaper in the section 4.2 about “The Critical Mass and the Tau Chain Reaction”.
Q: What are the biggest limitations of Tau and, are they solvable?
A: TML cannot do everything that requires more than polynomial space to be done and there are infinitely many things like this. For example, you can look up x time or x space complete problems. We would want to say elementary but there is no elementary complete problem but there are complete problems in each of the levels of elementary. All those, TML cannot do because this is above polynomial space. Another drawback of TML which comes from the usage of BDDs is arithmetic. In particular, multiplication. Multiplication is highly inefficient in TML because of the nature of BDDs and of course BDDs bring so many more good things that even this drawback of slow multiplication is small compared to all the possibilities that this gives us. Another limitation, which we will emphasize in the next version of the whitepaper, is the satisfiability problem. The satisfiability problem of a formula without a model to ask whether a model exists – not a model checking like right now but to ask whether a model exists – this is undecidable already on very restricted classes as follows from Trakhtenbrot’s theory. So in particular, the containment problem, the scalability problem, the validity problem, they all are undecidable in TML as is and for them to be decidable, we need to restrict even more the expressive power and look at narrower fragments of the language. But again, this will be more emphasized in the next version of the whitepaper.
Q: It looks years for projects such as Maidsafe to build something mediocre, why should Agoras be able to do similar or better in less time?
A: Early on in the life of the Tau project, we’ve identified the computational resources marketplace as one of the possible applications of Tau, so it is very much on our roadmap. However, as you mentioned, there are some other projects, e.g. Filecoin, which is specifically focusing on the problem of storage. So even though it’s on our roadmap, we’re not there yet but we are watching closely what our competitors in this field are doing. While they haven’t yet delivered on their promise of an open and distributed storage network, we feel that at some point we will have more value to bring to the project. So distributed storage is on our roadmap but it’s not a priority for us right now but eventually we’ll get there.
Q: What are the requirements in scalability, e.g. permanent storage etc.?
A: We haven’t answered that question yet.
Q: Will Tau be able to run on a mobile phone?
A: Definitely, Yes. We’re planning on being available on all computational platforms, be it a server, laptop, phone or an iPad type of device.
Q: Given a vast trove of knowledge, how can Tau determine relevance? Can it also build defenses against spam attacks and garbage data?
A: Tau doesn’t offer any predetermined solution to this. It is basically all up to the user. The user will have to define what’s criminal and what’s not. Of course, most users will not bother with defining this but they will be able to automatically agree to people who already defined it and by that import their definitions. So bottom line: It’s really up to the users.
Q: What are your top priorities for the next three months?
A: Our goal for this year (2020) is to release a first version of Agoras Live and of TML.
Q: Ohad mentioned the following at the start of the year: Time for us to work on Agoras. We need to create the Agoras team and commence work. We made a major improvement in one of Agoras’ aspects in the form of theatrical breakthrough but we’re not ready yet to share the details publicly. Is there any further news or progress with the development of Agoras?
A: If the question is whether there has been more progress in the development of Agoras, specifically with regards to new discoveries for the derivatives market, then the answer is of course yes. Professor Carmi is now working on those inventions related to the derivatives market. We still keep them secret and of course, with Agoras Live, knowledge sharing for money is coming.
Continuing submitted by
“Hello and good day, gentlemen”, I say. “I am Doctor Rocknocker. You may and will refer to me as ‘Rock’. OK? None of this ‘Doctor’ or ‘Sir’ guff. We green here?”
There was a buzz of voices but no direct answers.
“OK. Let’s get a few things down right here and now.
(1.) Call me Rock.
(b.) Answer me loudly. I will need to hear you loud and clear. Best get used to that now.
(iii.) “We green?” means “Are we in agreement?” It’s a form of shorthand I use here and in the field.
(⍾.) “You diggin’ me, Beaumont?
means you’ve really
done gone and pissed me off; you’ve done something untoward. Pray you never hear that phrase, and,
(∞.) I’m the boss. The top dog. The hookin’ bull. The Maharaja
here. I possess the first, final and only words you’re going to listen to for the next couple of weeks. What I say, goes. Any problem, please let me know now so we can replace you most quickly.”
A gentle buzz, but no replies.
“Gentlemen. Do we agree?” I ask.
“Yes, Rock.” Was the reply.
OK, there might be some form of a societal prohibition against making loud noises. That’s the first thing that has to go.
“Gentlemen, we will be working in the great outdoors where there are wind, rain, waves, and other environmental nonsense making all sorts of unrequited noise. We need clear and proper lines of communication. I need to hear you clearly and vice-versa. When speaking, you will speak slowly, clearly, and loudly. “
“DO WE AGREE!?!
” I yell, rather deafeningly.
“YES, ROCK!” came the eventual reply.
“Outstanding”. I ponder.
“Mr. Sanjay is my de facto
second in command. If I’m out having a smoke, taking a piss, or having a snort, he’s in charge. Listen to him as if I suddenly lost 150 pounds, shaved my beard, and inexplicably become Indian.” I chuckled.
They seemed to enjoy that. I actually elicited a few chuckles.
“Mr. Sanjay will now distribute to you your locker boxes. You will wait until he hands you yours. Do not get up and mill around the room. We green?” I ask.
“Green! Doctor Rock.” Came the noisy reply.
“Progress. Marvelous.”, I reflect.
“I’ll be right back. Mr. Sanjay, the room is yours.” I note. I might need to cut back on the coffee.
I slope off to the loo and it’s just as horrible as you can imagine an outdoor communal shithouse in sunny India attended by 30,000 Indian gentlemen could be.
Fuck COVID-19. I’m thinking hot and cold running dysentery, dengue, and death here. Ick.
Glad I have a highly functioning immune system.
I retrieve a shiny aluminum Halliburton™ case from Headquarters and ease off to an unused office space to change.
I went from my usual field garb to full PPEs. It was quite a sight.
I’ll be telling you about it in mere moments. Contain the excitement.
I’m walking back to Outbuilding #2 and damned if my get-up didn’t elicit a few gasps, shielded guffaws, and a salute or two. I have to admit, to the uninitiated, I was a sight right out of Area 52, the more secret one, west by northeast of Roswell, New Mexico.
I get back to the outbuilding and enter. Everyone was looking through their locker boxes, chuckling about their good fortune and wondering with Joker-like glee what the hell all these wonderful gizmos were and where did I get them? They all stopped dead in their tracks when I walked in.
Their silence was palpable.
“Gentlemen”, I said, “Here’s how you are going to look at work tomorrow. Revel in its utility, comfort, and extreme fashion sense.” I did a quick spin like I used to on the runway.
At O’Hare when we were doing field geostatic tests. Whatever were you thinking?
I was wearing a pair of size 66-XTall NFPA 70E blaze orange Carhartt Nomex coveralls. I had on a Dax carbon-fiber blaze orange “Coal Scuttle” hardhat with swing-away hearing protection keyed into your personal communications module, and a gold-anodized, pull-down full face shield. The helmet was designed to drain away falling water down over one’s back and not down one’s neck.
I had a pair of ‘wet’ gloves under the snap retainer on my left shoulder, a pair of ‘dry’ gloves on my right. I was wearing an orange CMC Safety 9-point safety and rescue harness, good to well over 1,500 pounds. Over both shoulders, around the crotch, up the front, and around the back, X-style. This popular harness features multiple D-ring attachment points and the patented JackBack removable padding with breathable D-3 cloth, which keeps shoulder straps separated and makes donning and doffing a breeze. It had several catch-points where one could easily and readily attach to the snap carabiners and get bodily dragged out of a nasty situation by rope or chain. The front waist D-ring allows a comfortable, stable sitting position for rappels and the sternum D-ring works well for helicopter or crane-assist hoists. Gear loops offer easy access to equipment, and quick-connect-disconnect shoulder straps and leg loops make the harness quick to don or doff. It could be used for impromptu spelunking on days off.
I had on Size 16 EEE Gear Box 8088 Men's 8 inch Black Leather intrinsically-safe hard-toed lace-up black turned-heel leather work boots with the new self-cleaning, oil-and chemical resistant Vibram soles.
They couldn’t see, but I was also wearing a cotton-Nomex blend wifebeater and boxers as well. Nomex tends to chafe. Best be safe.
I had a powerful Maglite flashlight clipped to my rescue harness, as well as my mini Air Horn; a blaster’s must. I also had a mobile VHF-Commslink™ radio in a pocket on the back of my coveralls on the left shoulder. I had the microphone for it Velcro-ed to my rescue harness within easy reach. Very cop like. Very cool. Very necessary.
I had a traditional Zippo and Bic Butane lighters in my right-hand chest pocket and a brace of cigars, though these were optional, in my left pocket. I carried a bespoke constructed Swiss Army Knife on a lanyard in my right front pocket and had a custom Bears Paw Leatherman hanging on the left of my rescue harness.
Also clipped to the harness was a Silva orienteering compass. There was a selection of NASA
write anywhere pens, Sharpies, and oil-writing chalk pencils in my other front pockets. I had an oil industry tally book in my other front pocket.
Why blaze orange? Well, Red Adair already co-opted bright red, and fluorescent green wasn’t available in my size.
So, we’re now ready to plant explosives in West India or go deer hunting in the Northwoods of Baja Canada.
“Questions, Gentlemen?” I asked.
I explained that in their locker boxes were purchase orders, POs, for every bit of kit I was wearing. They were to take these POs to the Company Store and get, well, kitted out in their own sizes and preferences. I wanted to see everyone back here tomorrow at 1300 hours looking as I do now. Well, maybe skip the cigar and be not quite so large.
I sat down on the table in front of the crowd and had Sanjay bring over the demo locker box.
“OK, gents,” I said, “This locker box is yours and is numbered as such. They will be stored here in Outbuilding #2. Each of you will receive a key for this building as it is now your headquarters. We’ll get back to locker boxes in a minute. Anyone need a break for a few minutes?” I asked.
No one dared answer at this magical juncture in the narrative.
“Well, I do”, I said, “Meet back here in twenty minutes. Sanjay?”
The class wandered out and I conversed with Sanjay. We found the maps I had ordered.
They were an aerial view of the breaking yard and it was split into 6 zones, all a different color. There was one master for the wall and 28 copies for the guys. I also had a log-in/log-out board made. Vertically numbered 1 to 28. There were also 7 vertical bars labeled Zone 1 through Zone 6, and one for ‘in dispose’; i.e., in Latrin-e Land. This was so I’d know where my guys were at all times.
There was a hook for each one of these areas to log in, and to let anyone know where a certain person was during the day or night. You’re number 10? And you’re going to be wielding a torch over in Zone 5? Your brass tag goes right there. You’re going to skip over to Zone 3? Get your ass back here and swap it over to where you’re going. There is no excuse for being where you haven’t said you were, short of active accident or dismemberment.
Everyone shuffles back in and I explain the tote board.
“Notice there’s no spot to leave your brass chit if you’ve gone off the reservation?” I asked. “Why do you suppose that is?”
Confused looks all around.
“Because you keep that brass token with you when you’re not on the job. Lose it, lose your job. Sounds harsh, but so is getting your fucking hands blown off. Think of it as an exercise in discipline.”
There was a very little rebuttal.
“When you are on location, your brass token will
reflect where you are. You are off-site, put the brass token in your wallet next to your lucky ‘circular impression’.
There were several knowing grins in my cadets.
Wear it around your neck on a chain. Keep it on your keyring. You can wrap it up in ribbons, you can slip it in your sock; I don’t care. Thing is, it is your ticket to this job. Hold on to it, there will be no replacements. We green?”
“Now, locker boxes. Gentlemen”, I continued. “These are your personal boxes that will be archived here. They will contain everything that you will need to carry out the job initially and help you with training the next crew that comes through after I leave. Keep them neat and tidy. I like to pull unannounced locker box inspections, gentlemen. Be forewarned.”
The sound of active scribbling is music to my tinny ears.
“Now, as such”, I continue, “Each locker box, at this point, is identical. Please follow along with me as we do inventory: Each gets locker box will contain (as I pull out the item for identification):
• 1- set Purchase Orders (POs) for PPEs
• 1- Galvanometer
• 2- Blaster’s pliers
• 1- Custom Leatherman
• 1- Metal clipboard
• Various Pens, pencils, paper, etc.
• 5- Sharpies
• 1 copy: Blasters Protocols Handbook, 15th Edition
• 1 copy: Blasting and explosives safety training manual by the IEE.
• 1 copy: Theory and practice of blasting, by Hino (A classic)
• 1 copy: Blasters Handbook, 17th Edition
• Various Explosives catalogs
• 1- Custom Swiss Army Knife
• Several Butane lighters
“Are we in agreement, gentlemen?” I ask. “Please check to be certain you have what the manifest states.”
“As long as we’re going over locker boxes, let’s look at our set of PPE purchase orders. Each locker box will contain POs for:
• 1 pair Orange Nomex coveralls, in your size
• 1 Dax carbon-fibre blaze orange hardhat with ear protection, gold face shield
• 1- CMC Safety 9-point extraction harness with carabiners
• 2- pairs Safety Glasses
• 2- pairs of gloves –wet & dry
• 1- pair Gear Box 8088 hard-toed intrinsically safe 8” work boots
• 1- Silva Orienteering Compass
• 3- pairs of cotton WaterWick socks
• 1- CommsLink™ VHF radio with microphone
• 1- Maglight power flashlight
• 1- Rain suit – also Nomex, bibs and outer shell
• 1- Mini Air Horn Power Tootler
• 1- Pair cotton/Nomex blende underwear – anti-chafe, wifebeateboxer: 3 sets.
• 1- 16-ounce container ‘Babies Bottom’ Talcum powder. Nomex chafes.
“Well, that’s a lot of gear; you best become real familiar with it as soon as you can. You are responsible for your PPEs. Lose them and replace them at your own cost. Wear them out? No problem. We will replace them. Get caught on location without your proper PPEs? Alavida
. Goodbye. There is no second try. Fuck up once, and you’re gone. I am here for a limited time to try and teach you characters how to blast boats. I am not here to be your wet-nurse or mother. We green?” I ask.
“YES! Green! Rock!”
We spend about an hour going over the various contents of the locker boxes and I answer general questions about blasting and explosives.
“We will use Primacord by the mile and tons of C-4 primarily. I might introduce you to binary explosives if there’s time. We might also get into PETN and RDX. Dynamite for training. But that’s about it.”
“We will use demolition wire and electrically fired blasting caps and boosters. We might have some time to look at set-pull-forget mechanicochemical fuses. But you’ll all learn some basic electrical wiring and how to design a circuit.”
“Tomorrow, given it doesn’t rain and the creek don’t rise.”
“Time, gentlemen!” I said. It’s been a long day and I’m a bit jet-lagged knackered. Besides, I wanted to give that Jacuzzi a spin.
“OK, remember: get your PPEs tomorrow morning at the Company Store. I expect to see each and every one of you here tomorrow, kitted out and ready to go, at 1300 sharp. That’s it. See you tomorrow. Susandhya
. [Good evening.]” I said.
Locker boxes are locked and stowed in an orderly fashion. Each and everyone one of my 24 acolytes come to me before he leaves work to thank me personally and shake my hand.
“This might just work out”, I say to no one in particular.
Sanjay and I head back to the Raj for the night. I’m really tired, finally feeling the jet travel hit, and not the least bit hungry.
However, I do ring up the 214 cigar dude and relieve him of a selection of fine smokes. I drop by the bar for a couple of barley-pops before I retire to my capacious room for the night.
“Sanjay”, I say, “I’m knackered. If anyone wants me, head them off until tomorrow. It can wait. I’m going to get some kip and don’t want to be disturbed. No maids, no Majordomo, no butler. I just want to get unconscious for a while.”
“No problem, Rock”, Sanjay assures me, “I’ll tell them you’ve gone bush and haven’t left a forwarding address.”
“Good man”, I say, patting him on the shoulder. Hell, I must be getting old. Shit like teaching a band of newbies and whooping a little ass would have never as much as caused me a short breath. Then again, it’s probably not the years, it’s really the mileage…
After a quick light breakfast come morning, Sanjay and I are back on location. I’m being given a tour of the place by the day-shift foreman, one Mr. Vikramaditya Shrivastava.
“Yikes”, I say to Sanjay, “You characters really go for your 11-syllable names.”
“Call him ‘Vik’, Rock”, Sanjay smiles, “Good thing you’ve never asked about my last name.”
“Probably is”, I snicker back. I’m not getting roped into this little tussle.
Vik speaks fairly passable English, but I’m still glad Sanjay is here. The first order of business is to see the explosives bunker I sent plans for and how that’s coming along. They tell me it’s almost finished and ready to be stocked with what I’ve ordered.
“Outstanding, let’s have a look,” I say.
Into the Citation Golf Cart, we go. None of this plebian walking shit. We’re MIPs, Monstrously Important People
Plebes walk, we ride.
We drive around the piles of rusty scrap, huge hunks of bulkhead, and disconcertingly quickly through polychromatic puddles of who-knows-what to slide to a stop in front of a large canvas tent.
Think M *A *S *H-type mess tent.
“What’s this?” I ask, “Commissary? First Aid?”
“No, Dr. Rock”, Vik explains, “Here are your explosives.”
My eyes grow large.
“What do you mean?” I ask. What the fuck do you mean? I mean.
“Building of your bunker is taking more time than we expected what with your design imperatives. But your order was filled most expediently. We are storing it here until the bunker is complete.” He smiles in that inimitable Indian manner that is so irritating when they don’t realize the major fuck-up they’ve just committed.
“OK. Simmer down, Rock.” I say to myself. “Sanjay, ask him again what’s in that tent. That bottomless tent that’s just a sheet of tarpaulin held up by metal poles.”
“He says that’s your explosives order, Rock,” Sanjay says. His demeanor went from perky and helpful to terrified as he saw me turn several shades of crimson and begin to emit wisps of steam.
“Sanjay”, I said in calm, calculated terms. “You are telling me there are over 9 tons of high explosives, blasting caps, boosters, demo wire, and ANFO sitting on wet sand in this heat under a sheet of fucking tarpaulin?”
“Yes?” he stammered, with a squeak.
“OK.”, I said. “We need to keep very calm and not go completely apeshit; and I’m telling you, right now, that’s taking Augean-level effort. We have a situation here, Mr. Sanjay. A very, very dangerous and very deadly situation. Let’s above all, remain calm.”
“Right, Rock”, he replies.
I turn to Vik and say in a calm and collected tone, “YOU STUPID MOTHERFUCKER! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?
“Calm and collected, right, Rock?” Sanjay smirks and Mr. Vik withers under my verbal assault.
“Sorry, I had to get that one out.”, I apologized, “Mr. Vik. You have created a real blockbuster here. Quite literally. I figured, erroneously it seems, that you would not take delivery of over 9 TONS
of high explosives before you had a very safe and secure place to store such.”
“It arrived sooner than we thought. We got a good price on it,” he explained.
You did? Fucking great! Holy mothering fuck!
Now I was even more worried. One does not get discounts or bargain-basement deals on quality
“Pray, Mr. Vik”, I entreated, “From where did you source these detonic components?”
“From Best Blast and Supply Llc of Hong Kong Enterprises.” He replied, “Bulk discount quantities, quick delivery bonus. Saved crore
No. I was wrong, it could get worse.
Not only 9 tons of high explosives, 9 tons of counterfeit, knock-off, and non-regulated manufacturer explosives.
“OK”, I said, “Let’s take stock here. My bunker isn’t finished yet? Correct? So you and the company meatheads ordered 9 tons of knock-off explosives from some shady and cheesy Chinese dealer and you stored them on wet beach sand, in this heat, under a tarp? Have I got all that right?”
“Oh, yes Doctor Rock.”, he smiled.
“Sanjay”, I said in a low, firm tone, “We have a…situation. We need to cordon this area off and build an exclusion zone as far as we can around it. No one, and I mean no one, gets within what, 10 kilometers? of the tent. This thing goes off, it’s going to leave a much larger than that cone of devastation. Then we need to visit with the management of this place and have a few thousand well-chosen four-letter words. Then I can think about what the fuck we’re going to do about this situation. I’m struggling to remain calm so everyone else will, but this is just a wee
bit tetchy. Find me some red flags and start planting them around the tent, working our way out. Let’s go. Calmly, collectively, and with purpose.”
We find a source of 2-meter poles with red pennants. Sanjay also finds a few miles of yellow “Danger: Stay The Fuck Away” tape. We gather then and head back to the tent. We start to spiral out from it planting flags and running tape.
We did the best we could, but we were disrupting daily business activities. Good. Let the head idiots in charge know they’ve fucked up and grandly.
Back at headquarters, I’m fuming. I’m damn mad. I’m loud and being all extremely American about all this.
“You fucking idiots! 9 tons of cheap-shit high explosives? From China? Stored on wet sand in this heat? Under a benchod
tarp? Why the flying fuck do you think I sent such detailed plans for a storage bunker? Do you assholes even think?” I railed on like this for at least half an hour, going all Gene Wilder in ‘Young Frankenstein’.
“Yes, Doctor”, one Mr. Karam Kanungo, the local boss and company president said, “That is all true and steps will be taken to redress the situation. But that doesn’t address the issue at hand. What do you suggest?”
“I suggest you are all taken out and given hot coffee high colonics to clear out your thinking processes”, I spit, “But that still leaves us with a nine-ton headache out there waiting to bloom into something even more aggravating.”
The entire assembled board agreed.
I calm down a bit and have a think. Fuck your boardroom, I’m having a cigar.
“You need a licensed, certified, master blaster to go and sort that out. Do you happen to have one handy?” I asked, sweeter than clover honey.
“Ah, yes, you are…oh.”, was the collective realization.
“Yeah, I know. It’s me. I’m the only one that can sort this shit out. We can’t even wait until we find someone from the world to assist. We are sitting on a literal time bomb, gentlemen.” I reply.
They all agreed and were relieved I was going to take on the challenge.
What else could I do? That stuff lights off and we’re talking easily hundreds if not thousands of fatalities and countless injuries. Fuck that. Not on my watch.
I tells ya’ what. The fucking Karma Fairy better shower me with gifts and accolades, blowjobs and candy corn after all this.
In a metaphorical sense, of course.
“OK, Mr. Sanjay, you’re with me.” I say, “Now look, Herr Macs”, I address the collective board, “Before I had carte blanche
. Now, if I even think we might need something, it appears. We’ll sort out our honoraria and bonuses for this after we get back.”
Everyone present agreed most hastily. Handshakes all around and apologies from the board cemented the issue.
“OK, Sanjay. I need a bus. At least 24-seater. With a driver than knows how, when, and where to stop. OK?” I ask.
“24, Rock?”, Sanjay asks, “You’re not thinking of including the recruits now, are you?”
“Yes I am, Mr. Sanjay.”, I replied sternly, “On the job training. Meet me at outbuilding #2 at 1300 as per plan. Order a bus and arrange the largest forklift that can manage beach sand, about 100 wooden pallets, plastic wrap, and sandbags. Lots and lots of sandbags. Have them stockpiled away from the tent in a muster area. OK. You got all that?”
“Yes, Rock”, he said, “I’ll be there in a couple of hours. It will only take a few phone calls.”
Not even 1000 in the fucking morning and I’m facing life and death decisions once again. I dig an emergency flask out of my field vest. If this doesn’t qualify as an emergency, what the fuck does?
A tot or two later, I change into my PPEs, and light a cigar. I catch a tap-tap to the region of the tent. I need to reconnoiter the area and figure out what sort of dragon I have to slay and the best way of going about slaughtering the sumbitch.
I’m standing alone, about 250 meters from the tent of death.
I’m puzzling and puzzling; but I can’t allow for my puzzler to go sore. Not this early, anyway.
“OK, me ol’ mucker”, I sigh, “It’s me or thee. Pucker up, Buckwheat. Here I come.”
A blast suit like the ones bomb disposal dudes wear wouldn’t help in the least. All it would do is hold the mashed body parts together to make for easier disposal. I’m anywhere within a kilometer or so of this pile of Chinese counterfeit boom-makers and it decides to let go; I’m lunchmeat. That’s it. Alive one second; kerpow, splat, instantaneously zonked into component particles the next. That’s the long and short of it. No ‘thank you’s. No ‘good bye’s. Just existing here one minute and in an alternate dimension the next.
Doesn't that just take the biscuit? Funny old thing, life.
I trod onwards.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.
I was walking up to the tent, clearing a path for the forklift. No fucking way I’m schlepping nine tons of dodgy explosives out of here, over wet beach sand, by hand and hoof.
Sand. I’m with young Anakin on this one. I hate sand. I hate walking in dry sand, hiking in wet sand. It makes for a wonderful oil reservoir and I love its porosity and permeability at depth. But at the surface, forget it. Yow! Let me tell you about the time I was out in the Rub al-Khali desert. The great Sand Erg. Wind blowing a force 9 gale! Seif dunes 1,000 meters high…
Yeah. I know. I’m stalling.
I’m approaching the tent. Carefully. I pause to light a new cigar. You might think that daft, but it’s really not. None of the stuff inside is heat-sensitive; let me clarify. None of the stuff is going to go off if hit by errant ash or even a sustained flame. But sitting out in the 30C+
heat? OK, that makes it twitchier. Cigars do the opposite for me. Give me something to concentrate upon and it calms me down.
I need calm now. By the bucketful. Where’s a monsoon when you really need one?
OK, I made it. I’m at the tent. Got to hand it to the workers around here, they respect authority and don’t come anywhere near the tent. They also don’t apparently give a shit as there no crowd gathered filming me with their iPhones to post to You Tube© if the tent decides to go all detonic.
Good. I couldn’t yell anything at them they’d understand to clear out anyway.
I open the hole in the side of the tent and pause. I’m hit with a wave of hot air. And the heady redolence of onions, sewer gas, and dog farts.
Sorry, that’s just me. Weird midnight snack last night. Frozen durian. What a treat.
I smell kerosene. Old wood pulp, like musty magazines. And an undercurrent of almonds.
“Oh, treble fuck me,” I say to no one within 100 square kilometers.
Kerosene is sweaty C-4. Old wood pulp is dynamite. Almonds? My old friend, nitroglycerine.
Things, if possible, went from real to super-uber major-league holy-fuck real.
“OK”, I say, as I dig out my phone and begin to snap pictures at a frantic rate.
Luckily, all the ordnance was piled like-with-like. Blasting caps? All over here. C-4, all along this ‘wall’. Dynamite? All over here. Non-explosives? Right over here.
I was mentally running like a squadron of overclocked Crays, wondering what I need to do to sort out this little situation. I’m so deep in thought, someone would need to throw me a rope to get my attention.
Or, just tap me on the shoulder.
Once I returned from low earth orbit, I turn to see a little wisp of an Indian feller, who had to be at least 27 years Methuselah’s senior.
“What? THE? Actual? Fuck? Are? You? DOING? Here?” I screamed.
“A thousand pardons, Sahib.”, the ancient one said, “I saw you working alone. Salim wonders if you need some help? Salim is good helper. Salim will help you good.”
“Yes, Salim. Oh, hello by the way.”, I said, calming a bit, forcing myself to smile so I didn’t kill him on the spot, “I do need your help. I need you to go, very slowly, out of this tent and to where the flags begin. Stand there and allow access to no one. OK. We green?”
Salim smiles broadly revealing both teeth. I slowly usher him out and remind myself to order a few new pairs of boxers before the day is out.
Back to the problem at hand. There are some salvageable items here. But the most the C-4, all the dynamite and every sack of ANFO has to go. And by ‘go’, I mean be disposed of. How?
By blowing it up, how else?
An idea creeps into my skull. I puff and puff while it grows and finally, I’ve a plan of attack.
I close the tent and slowly walk away. I hand Salim 1000 rupees and tell him that no one, I don’t care if it was Mahatma Gandhi reincarnate, goes anywhere near that tent.
“You savvy?” I ask.
“Oh, Sahib! I savvy! Thank you! Salaam! I savvy!” he is beside himself with joy, 13 bucks, and a task.
I look at my watch. It’s just gone noon. Good. I need a sandwich, some fluid replacement, as I’ve probably literally sweated off 5 kilos in the last hour and a half, and some time to jot down my plans.
I catch a tap-tap, geez, these things are everywhere around here. They form an unsanctioned, but necessary, sort of intradepartmental transport system here. I tip a couple of hundred rupees for every trip. They see blaze orange and they have this Pavlovian reaction. I sometimes need to break up fist-fights over which driver arrived first.
“Commissary”, I say, sit down, let the tap-tap, which is really nothing more than a glorified golf cart, adjust to my Western bulk and away we zip.
Salim is waving to me as we depart.
I shudder to think if I hadn’t had a tot or two and was a bit jumpier from the morning’s caffeine. Here's to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.
At the commissary, I grab a tall iced, fruit cocktail juice; a slurry of mixed dragon fruit, kiwi, carambola, blood orange, green apple, watermelon, bitter melon, sweet melon, & bailan melon fruity essence. I’m incredibly thirsty and I need some calories, but not in bulk and not from onion bhajis, mutton kabobs, or something claiming to be grilled chicken on a stick.
The last thing I need today is a case of the trots or even sharp gas pains in the next few hours. I add about 5 fingers of Old Fornicator Vodka to the juice and sip it slowly as my biometric rhythms return from the ionosphere and back to more normal levels.
Remember, I’m EtOh-based. I need to control my various fluid levels very carefully.
The blasting muse is upon me. In less than 30 minutes, I have a plan. Both a written out procedure and a map of what needs to be done.
I finish off another tall, icy glass of potato and various fruit juices, venture outside feeling almost like I’ve once again regained the illusion of control of the situation and my life.
I fire up a heater and decide to walk the approximately 1100 meters to outbuilding #2. I’m thinking as I sashay along; figuring this and calculating that.
I round the corner and see Outbuilding #2 and a bus parked next to it.
The bus looks like a refugee from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. The movie and album.
I go into Outbuilding #2 and see about half the class has arrived, and they are all kitted out in their new, stiff, and scratchy PPEs.
I nod hello to all and see Sanjay over across the room.
“Mr. Sanjay”, I say, “Nice bus. What’s the story?”
“Only one I could find that was a 24 seater, not actively falling apart, and with an English speaking driver. Rock. Mr. Maha, owneoperator.” He replied.
“Mr. Maha”, I said, shaking his hand. “Love the bus. Some sort of passion project?”
Mr. Maha laughs. “I was city bus driver for 39 years. I retire and go nuts. I buy old bus and fix up mechanicals. Runs all like excellently. Looks like dung heap. I begin to paint and never quite knew when to stop.”
“I like it. Adds a sense of surrealism to the day, as if it really needs more.” I reply, “However, I do hope you know how to stop. I mean that sincerely. We have a literal bomb to defuse. Does that bother you?”
“No, Doctor”, he says, “Nothing much bothers me anymore. I know. You are here. You are to make safe. I feel safe that you’re here. Let us go to work.”
“Outstanding”. I say.
I tell him that a fat bonus will be his when this is all over if all goes to plan.
“Unnecessary.”, he replies, “Mr. Sanjay has already paid me.”
“Paid? Perhaps”, I reply, “You are going to get danger money whether you like it or not.”
“I guess I will like it, Doctor.” He smiles.
I look at the clock, it’s 1256. Almost showtime.
1300 on the spot. I pick up the microphone and address the assembled 24.
“Gentlemen”, I say, “Very good. You all look like late October in the United States. Very festive.” as all are kitted out in their respective PPEs.
“We have a little matter to handle. One that has just cropped up and one you’re certainly not ready for, but I have no other choice. Does that bother anyone here?” I ask.
Head shakes and questions arise.
“OK, class”, I say, “For your first training exercise, we’re going to defuse a 9-ton bomb. Let’s go.”
The collective gasp drew my cigar smoke in another direction, right towards them.
“Doctor…Ah, Rock. Really?” one brave soul asked for the crowd.
“Yes”, I said, “seems your company officials got a ‘real deal’ on some dodgy Chinese explosives. They didn’t wait until they finished the storage bunker I had designed, so they simply set the stuff on the beach and covered it with a canvas tent.”
There were more gasps.
“Indeed”, I said, “We need to neutralize this threat. Sanjay is passing out copies of my plan and designs on just how to do this. Read them over and let me know what you think. You have 5 minutes. We’re out of here at 1330 on the nose.”
They read quickly, cogitated over the plans and as I had assumed, didn’t find any flaws within.
“OK”, I say after an inch of cigar had passed, “You follow my directions, directly and without question, there’s no reason you can’t come out of this alive and happy, free to pursue a life of religious fulfillment.”
There was a chuckle or two at that last line. ‘Airplane’ is such a classic movie.
“Now I know”, I continued, “That this is pretty scary shit. Especially for you guys, being tossed in the deep end like this. I know because I’m scared to death.”
“Oh, Doctor Rock”, one of my acolytes said, “We do not believe this is so.”
“I stay alive by being scared to death”, I replied. “You will learn this as well.”
Sanjay checks out everyone’s PPE and all appear in good order. They are happy to have such nice, new equipment.
And that’s a problem. People used to ragged and ratty shit with which to work will go to extraordinary lengths to not filthy-up brand new working gear. This is one little bugaboo I’m going to settle here and now.
“One thing, gentlemen”, I note, “You all have nice, clean, and new PPEs. You look great. You come back to Outbuilding #2 looking as pristine, you’re gone. Keeping clean is not a part of your training. You’re going to sweat and stink. You keep to clean and it tells me you’re goldbricking, that is, not doing your job.” I say as I surreptitiously unscrew the top of my travel mug, ‘accidentally’ trip and shower the front row with Greenland coffee, lukewarm.
“See?”, I saw, “They were totally protected. That’s what PPEs are all about. We green?”
“Somewhat brown, Rock”, a couple of the guys in the front row reply without a hint of irony.
“Gentlemen, it is time. Take what you think you’ll need and leave the rest in your locker box. Brass tags to Sector 4. On the bus, we leave in 5 minutes.”
I move my brass marker to Zone 4, puff a blue cloud for all to see, and head out to the bus.
We’re loaded and headed to Sector 4 in less than 5 minutes.
“OK”, I say”, I’m going to break you up into groups of 4. Tags number 1 to 4, you’re group 1. 5-8, group 2, and so on. OK?”
All respond in the affirmative.
OK. Six groups of four, Sanjay and me to lead the pack. We roll up to just outside the exclusion zone. With a squeal of brakes, we grind to a halt.
“Outside”, I command, “Assemble in your groups next to the bus. Go!”.
Like a well-oiled team, they de-bus and stand together in 6 groups. Sanjay and I walk along, inspecting the troops.
“OK”, I say, “This may seem like a shit job, but group 4. Back on the bus. To the commissary. Water, juice, and whatever else you think we’ll need to stay hydrated out there. Don’t worry, we’re going on rotation once you get back. You’ll all get a chance to do the exciting stuff. Now, move it.”
I say something to Sanjay, he jots it down in his book, certain to remind me later.
“OK, let’s see. Group 1. Storage detail. Build the temporary in-ground storage locker like it’s shown in the plan. Get help and have them source the manpower and materials. It needs to be done in the next 2 hours. Go!”
There are some explosives that can be salvaged. I need a place to store them. I’ve scouted and laid out a spot away from prying eyes where they can build an 8x8x8 hole in the ground, line it with marine plywood, and store whatever we can salvage. A plywood roof over the thing, a couple of locks, and well, Robert’s your Mother’s Sister’s Husband.
Next, I send group 3 to build a road from the tent to an area on the beach sourced as Disposal Area #1. They will take flags and tape and run a road, of sorts, from the tent to the beach; cordoning it off so we can take the forklift and its loads of dodgy high explosives to the disposal area.
The other groups are doing needful and necessary things as well. I tell Sanjay to keep a lid on things, I’m going to bring the forklift, a few pallets, sandbags and such in for the first run.
I find the forklift, and it’s a huge old Hyster 52-ton truck.
The keys are in, so I drop in and fire it up. It catches on the first twirl and I pick up a half-dozen wooden pallets, a bunch of sandbags, and a few huge rolls of plastic wrapping. It’s like driving a tank, but it has plenty of power and just a low gear range.
I drive it back to Sector 4 and almost rum over Salim. He was taking my previous orders very seriously, indeed.
“All cool, Salim”, I say over the roar of the forklift, “It’s just me.”
He waves and lets me pass. He’s serious as a heart attack about keeping people out.
I drive and realize that I can’t drive ‘gingerly’ in a conveyance such as this. I can drive deliberately and with forethought, but it rumbles and shudders the ground. Best to slide in, drop the load, and shut her down while I figure out what’s next.
I do so and drop the pallets, etc., just outside the flap of the tent. I back off a few feet, drop the forks, and shut the noisy machine down for the time being.
Sanjay appears. As does Crew #5. I motion them to come over, slowly and with forethought.
We’re all standing outside the tent flap. I raise an index finger, right, of course, to get their attention.
“Gentlemen, first lesson. What says these explosives have gone bad? Answer:” and I open the tent flap.
“Take a whiff. What do you smell?” I instruct.
“Old paper?” was one answer.
“Oil? Petrol? Something petrochemical?” was the next.
“Almonds?” Sanjay says.
“Highest marks. We’ve old C-4. It sweats and smells like kerosene. Old paper or pulp? Dynamite gone wet and bad. Almonds? Bitter, bitter almonds? Nitroglycerine. Yes, guys. We’ve got rogue nitro inside. Anyone want to quit? Now’s your chance.” I ask, being deadly serious.
One looks to another; then they all look to me…eyes wide… To be continued…
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