1997: Business Update
This comic shows a meeting at Beret Guy's business (as seen in these other comics). As usual, those in the business demonstrate a misuse of business terminology and take strange happenings within the business in stride.
Though maintaining a semblance of business-savviness through the use of many corporate buzzwords, it becomes clear that what is normally metaphorical in a usual boardroom meeting is here quite likely meant literally. The Quarterly Reports, described as "looking good," may be literally physically attractive (rather than recording successful business dealings). Beret Guy's comment that "the office is full of cash" is superficially positive, but knowing Beret Guy, it seems likely that the office is literally full of money, like coins, dollar bills, twenty dollar bills, etc. and not simply economically well-off. Most businesses keep their money in banks, and any business that keeps all their money insecurely in the office is either criminally shady or incompetent.
Stocks (as in the stock market, a.k.a. shares) are being manufactured. Stocks are valuable, so from an outside perspective making more of them would create value. However, the humor of this situation is that in real life, creating shares from nothing would reduce the value of existing shares (as the combined value of stocks should add up to the total value of the company... so creating more stocks means each has to be worth less to make the addition balance out). This is ironic in that typically stocks represent the value of the company, rather than being the product being created.
Alternatively, the company may be producing the leg restraints known as stocks. It's unlikely that there would be many people wishing to buy these stocks. Conversely, if what they are making is soup stocks, then it could be related to the 'rapid growth' (i.e., obesity) of the customers.
"Rapid growth" is something a business is supposed to attain for itself or its userbase, not its individual customers. If the customers are not children they are likely very concerned by this rapid growth, as should be Beret Guy if the rapid growth is being caused by his business and its products.
"Liquidating assets" typically means that assets are being sold off for money rather than being retained or used. Assets "liquidated" in a thermostat glitch, meanwhile, may have been literally melted ("turned into liquid"). It could also mean that their infrastructure is so hilariously messed up (and/or the assets so bizarre) that a simple glitch in a thermostat somehow resulted in the loss of a large amount of the company's assets. Note that this type of thing is not entirely unheard of, as shown by a hack of a thermostat in a casino that led to massive data loss in 2017.
"Original content" is a catch-all term for unique creative products created by a website, e.g. articles, videos or TV shows. However, it is not typically used to describe sinks, which only provide water. Since the business team regards it as a problem, this means the sink is likely leaking or backing up, possibly with polluted water or rotting food waste, or perhaps creating things one would not expect a sink to dispense or even to exist (depending on how "original" this original content is).
Transmuting lead into gold was a goal of alchemists for many centuries. With modern nuclear technology, it is actually now possible to accomplish transmutation of lead into gold, and gold into lead. While the expense far exceeds the value of the gold produced by such methods, it seems plausible that, given Beret Guy's surpassing strangeness, his company may be successfully and cheaply transmuting large quantities of lead into gold and back again. Since gold is worth much more than lead in today's market, the first transmutation could indeed result in major profit, while the reverse would obviously result in major losses, and be a rather pointless undertaking for a typical, profit-oriented business.
It is also worth noting that the "largest source of revenue" may not be producing much if any revenue at all; it can still be the biggest if there are no others. On the other hand, past experience with Beret Guy's business would indicate that this company is making plenty of money, though they aren't necessarily sure how.
Alternately, Beret Guy may be speaking literally about their "biggest source of revenue," referring not to the amount of revenue generated, but to the physical size of the source itself. A facility capable of transmutating heavy elements would most likely be constructed around a large particle accelerator such as a synchrotron, and accelerators of this type commonly measure several kilometers in diameter. Such a facility would likely be the largest physical structure owned by a commercial entity.
In the last panel, "the girl from The Ring" refers to Sadako Yamamura, the antagonist of the Ring series by Koji Suzuki, or her counterpart Samara Morgan from the American remake, who has been referenced by xkcd several times in the past as in 396: The Ring. One of Sadako/Samara's supernatural abilities is to appear in television screens as well as exit from them into the real world. Beret Guy claims she has done this several times in their video conferences, which may be possible if someone has hacked their video feed to play footage from the 2002 movie. However, some of Beret Guy's employees then proceed to remark that she has made contributions to the meetings in question, implying that the image of Yamamura is not only alive but sentient and communicating with the employees, rather than killing them as she typically does in her movies. It's also possible that Yamamura is simply the recording from the series, and her contributions are just in keeping with the general tone of the company's video conferences. Either way, it would appear that Beret Guy's sheer eccentricity has affected his staff to the point that a digital spectre would not be an abnormal employee; they're also oddly nonchalant about a movie character appearing in the real world, and at Samara's out-of-character behavior.
The title text refers to the May 25 deadline to implement the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR); this comic parodies a business meeting about what the company is doing to prepare for it. However, while normally the problem would be how to handle the customers' personal information that the company requires to retain in order to do business, in this case it seems the company does not require personal information at all, and instead, customers are sending them theirs on their own (and they refuse to stop doing it!). Even more bizarrely, Beret Guy was told by the EU (or at least he thinks he was told by the EU) that he is exempt because he is royalty of some kind, which would give him Sovereign immunity, but he wants to fix this problem anyway, just to be on the safe side.
- [Beret Guy, Ponytail, Hairy, Hairbun and Megan sit around a table, left to right. Beret Guy and Megan are sitting on chairs at the ends. All others are behind the table with no visible chairs. All characters face Beret Guy.]
- Beret Guy: Quarterly reports are looking good.
- Beret Guy: Our office is full of cash, we're producing stocks faster than ever before, and our customers are experiencing rapid growth.
- Beret Guy: Any updates?
- [Closeup on Ponytail, facing left.]
- Ponytail: Bad news: many of our assets were liquidated this morning due to a thermostat glitch.
- Ponytail: Good news: the sink in the kitchen has stopped producing original content.
- [Same as panel one, but characters are facing Megan.]
- Beret Guy: How are our finances?
- Megan: Our biggest source of revenue is our ongoing project to transmute lead into gold.
- Megan: Our biggest expense is our project to transmute it back.
- [Closeup on Beret Guy, facing right, offset to the left of the panel. Two characters speak from off-panel right.]
- Beret Guy: Lastly, any luck getting the girl from The Ring to stop showing up in our video conferences?
- Off-panel person 1: No, but honestly, she's made some good contributions.
- Off-panel person 2: Yeah, I think we should hire her.
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