Author: hypermark

Be Dynamic.


I was talking with someone the other day who communicated a sense of pride in the fact that they are “dynamic.”

The phraseology resonated, bringing into focus (for me) their natural positivity, their good spirit, force of will and openness to new ideas & experiences.

It brought me back to a Quora post I read not long ago about this young person who was always engaging people that he came into contact with at school and on the street - greeting, smiling, taking interest, extending himself, etc.

When asked by his parents how this outreaching aspect came so naturally, he simply stated, “I’m building an army.”

Being Dynamic

We each have within us the power to be dynamic.

Regardless of the size of the armies we are building, being dynamic is driven by having and codifying an apt purpose guided by specific goals and quantifiable tactics. 

Choosing what NOT to do as much as what to do.

Gaining clarity on what we're choosing to optimize around by doing more or less of something, or by doing it differently.

By putting forth a concentrated effort, with a repeatable process and the basic grit to put in the reps.

Lest we become too self-serious, being dynamic is about maintaining a sense of awe, of wonderment and gratitude, engaging one's pursuits with optimism, earnestness and a sense of the whole enchilada.

This sparks a curiosity, not just to ask lots of questions, but in a doggedness to work our way to our ultimate truths.

(Read more...)

Seven reasons I am betting on a Soft Landing for the U.S. Economy


Famed investor Michael Burry ('The Big Short') predicts a U.S. recession "by any definition.” That sounds ominous but let me attempt to articulate why I believe a soft landing or mild recession is more likely.

First and foremost, two disclaimers. One, I am not smart enough to predict the gyrations of the stock market, which is digesting the unwinding of one of the greatest asset bubbles ever, coupled with a still-lingering pandemic, an emerging climate crisis, and international & domestic political instability.
That’s a lot of risk to mitigate.

Two, we ARE moving into a period of tighter access to capital, so industries dependent on cheap, easy money to backstop long-term negative cashflow business fundamentals, or robust public markets for ready liquidity (e.g., Venture Capital) may very well face serious challenges.

In a healthy way, the present is very much a time for re-set of valuation metrics, and re-classification of assets, as in:

  1. Is that asset really a liability?
  2. Is the valuation premium too rich given risk factors (think: Crypto, Tesla)?

In other words, if you are in an undifferentiated money-losing business (or industry), the present time is reminiscent of the narrative that:

“When your friend loses her job, it's a recession, but when YOU lose your job, it's a depression.”

The point being that not all segments are created equal, and even in good economic times, plenty of businesses fail.

Then, why am I relatively bullish?

One, so much of inflation, and by extension, the cost of EVERYTHING, (Read more...)

Reasons for Optimism, and The Honest Liar has No Sense of Decency


The 2022 Midterms may ultimately mean a lot, or very little, in terms of the durability of Democracy and a broadening of personal freedoms.

But, it certainly felt like a turning point in the right direction.

Away from cynicism and disregard for our history and institutions.

Towards optimism, affirmation in the importance of good (and getting better) governance, the integral-ness of functioning institutions, rule of law and the belief that Policy can make a difference in people's lives...for the better.

The Good Liar 

Comedian Dave Chappelle had a very astute observation in his recent opening monologue on SNL.

When talking about the appeal of Donald Trump, Chappelle spoke with absolute clarity.

The genius of Trump, Chappelle noted, is that Trump is an "honest liar."

He channels our cynicism by treating lying, cheating, stealing and self-dealing NOT as a sign of moral failure or guilt, but rather, of virtue, a sign of personal force and of being a GANGSTA (not gangster), by reverse engineering the system.

Breaking the rules and being bound by no truths other than, "When you are a star, they let you do it," Trump as the honest liar is the hero to the cynics, who believe that:

  1. The system is irrevocably broken
  2. Those empowered to govern are irredeemably corrupt
  3. Our institutions are fundamentally incapable of making peoples lives better, if they ever did

In such a world, the liar and cheat, the honest liar is King.

(As an aside, what I love about Chappelle is that he (Read more...)

Creating Animated GIFs with Midjourney AI Art

A couple simple examples of how you can use variations to combine mutliple images to create simple animations.

This feels like the kind of thing Midjourney could automate the creation of at some point.

Btw, for some reason, you have to click the animated GIF for it to load.

Classic Zombie Film

This is the outcome of the following string:

classic zombie film with psychadelic zombies, insanely detailed and ornate 3D style, drawn on paper with ink, symmetrical, dream-like, colorful, vector, low poly, colorful patterned background fills page

I have built a library of prompts based on output from other Midjourney users that I then use for iterations.

So, the mindset is very Pay it Forward, Standing on the Shoulders (of those who put the work in before us).

Specific to the creation process of the animation, it's super simple if you are on a mac (and probably not that different on windows).

I use Apple Keynote, which is the Powerpoint-like software included on Mac.

(Sidebar: Keynote is GREAT for building UI/UX wireframes, and has lots of nifty features that make for better "symmetry" across the design process.) 

I change the slide size to match the output of Mijourney, which is 768*768 (when I use --test and --upbeta settings).

Then, I add each of the separate images as slides, and then do export as animated GIF, and finagle the timing of transitions until I have the cadence that I like.

Quick Tips of building animated GIFs

  1. Don't undervalue the (Read more...)

Generative AI: Midjourney, DALL-E and the AI Art Wave

DALL·E 2022-08-09 23.09.57

I have seen the future, and AI Art is embedded in it.

Case in point, the above image was generated by typing nothing more than the words "a dachshund doberman mix with black fur and light brown and medium brown coloring riding a skateboard" on AI art service, DALL-E.

Four different variations were rendered in under one minute, I picked one version where I chose a few more variations, clicked upscale, and this is the output.

In under two minutes start to finish, I had created something magical (to me, at least).

The-Diamond-AgeThe experience brought me back to Neal Stephenson's 'The Diamond Age,' which introduced the concept of a Matter Compiler.

Think 3D Printing, Generation 100.

The Matter Compiler of The Diamond Age was an atomic and sub-atomic assembly and render engine. Pretty much anything, organic or inorganic, live or not alive, could be output from a Matter Compiler.

If that is what the fully realized end-state looks like, then the potential of AI Art is some subset of that. 

A Sample AI Art Gallery

Here is a sample gallery I created in Midjourney, another emerging AI Art service.

Using the specific phrases you see on the each page, and then creating variations, and then iterating those variations until I got the looks that I wanted, is how I came to a finished instance. To finish, I upscaled the final candidates to the max.

Sidebar: The "finished product" is akin to an MVP but (Read more...)

American Exceptionalism: Dancing on the Razor’s Edge


Winston Churchill once famously observed that "Americans will always do the Right Thing, only after they have tried Everything Else."

I guess we all know now the true meaning of American Exceptionalism!

Then again, maybe it's a necessary buzz-kill, in that it reminds us that the motivational razor's edge is mighty thin between democracy and authoritarianism.

For a generation who did not directly experience the horrors of World War II, who never had to sacrifice loved ones to preserve our freedom, let alone miss out on the latest Prada bag, Door Dash delivery, or egads, actually learn history, we occasionally NEED reminders of what falling into the abyss looks like.

The January 6th Hearings are a stark reminder that that which we FAIL to hold dear, we're destined to eventually lose.

Too much temptation for one side to seize the keys to the Kingdom, and restore the Monarchy.

Democracy is not our birth right, not the natural order, but rather something to be fought for and held tight, or as Benjamin Franklin once remarked:

"A Democracy, if you can keep it."

But how to add resilience into the system?


Three Keys: Education, Safety Nets and Reconciliation

Let's begin with Reconciliation (aka Towards a More Civil Union).

Light is the best antiseptic, so let's shine a light on the key questions of our times.

What are we fighting over?

What are we divided over as Americans?

What is the common ground we CAN agree upon?

If most of what divides the haves from (Read more...)

It’s a Madhouse: Thoughts on Gun Reform and Being Serious about Real Problems

There is a moment in the original 'Planet of the Apes' where Charlton Heston's Astronaut Taylor screams out in horror of a world that is upside down.

"It's a Madhouse...a Madhouse."

Putting aside the fact that Heston himself was an NRA-loving gun nut, the phrase "Madhouse" keeps echoing through my brain as we suffer through yet another gun massacre (Robb Elementary School), less than a week following the last massacre (Buffalo Supermarket Shooting).

How can one political party (the GOP) sleep at night defending and doubling-down on a policy that results in a never-ending stream of mass shootings each year at our schools, places of worship, workplaces and shopping and entertainment venues?

Do you or anyone you care about hang out at any of those places?

Do you really want to live in a world where dying in a hail of bullets is a "roll of the dice" possibility?

Just in our recent lifetimes, the names below have become synonymous with mass death, and families that will never be whole again, for no other reason than ready access to AR-15 assault rifles by those full of hate, disgruntlement, racism, youthful anger, retribution or mental illness: 

  • Columbine High School (SCHOOL)
  • Virginia Tech (SCHOOL)
  • Aurora Movie Theater (ENTERTAINMENT VENUE)
  • Sandy Hook Elementary (SCHOOL)
  • Umpqua Community College (SCHOOL)
  • Planned Parenthood (PLACE OF WORK)
  • San Bernardino attack (PLACE OF WORK)
  • Pulse Nightclub (ENTERTAINMENT VENUE)
  • Las Vegas Music Festival (ENTERTAINMENT VENUE)
  • Sutherland Springs church (PLACE OF WORSHIP)
  • Stoneman Douglas High (Read more...)

Life Lessons: Always Be Teaching

One of the truisms that I embrace in life, and encourage others to embrace as well is the notion that life is full of "teachable" moments, so whether it is your child, your partner, a client or a co-worker, you should adopt a mindset to Always Be Teaching.

Why do I say this? Number one, the idea of giving back, and giving more than we take, is a powerful, pay it forward concept.

Don't talk the talk. Walk the walk.

Two, the idea of teaching and teachable moments forces one to soften their heart when others fail to see the full picture.

After all, there is a BIG difference between, "You let me down" and "Let me show you how to be better."

Three, the idea that we are teaching versus, selling, directing or admonishing, really focuses the mind.

What am I trying to communicate? What is the outcome goal? What other pieces do my counterpart need to know to be successful here? What is a reasonable expectation given the current understanding at hand?

Finally, when you embrace the notion of teaching, and BE-ing a teacher, you come to see interactions as part of a practice, and a discipline that requires a different kind of preparation, which forces YOU to be better, more directed and more process-driven.

By giving back, you become better.

Find Your Purpose

As the year winds down, and a new one is set to begin, know this. We have a limited time on the planet to make our mark (whatever that mark is). 

Don’t waste time with apathy, excuses or laziness.

Where confusion reigns, take inventory, seek answers, write it down and iterate.

Every breath is a blessing. Make it matter. Make your mark.

Ruminations on The Fountainhead vs. Atlas Shrugged: When Does Personal Integrity Become Narcissism and Sociopathy?


I am a big fan of juxtapositions; the idea of putting two disparate concepts side by side to get to a larger truth.

One of my favorite juxtapositions is Ayn Rand's "The Fountainhead" vs. "Atlas Shrugged."

I find that people who've read both books tend to favor one more deeply.

The Fountainhead is largely a tale about the price one pays for pursuing and maintaining Personal Integrity at all costs.

It's a book about being true to one's self.

Atlas Shrugged is about the Makers vs. the Takers (tell me if you have heard this terminology before).

Atlas Shrugged poses as a book about Creating and Building when it's really a book about Narcissism and Sociopathy.

I say this because it presents a false dichotomy and a cynical view of society and institutions when the truth is more nuanced.

Every bit of infrastructure we have is built by our institutions, and the greatest companies are built on the backs of TEAMS of great people, many of whom never get rewarded or fully appreciated for their efforts.

Atlas-ShruggedThe idea of a Maker or Taker is core to what is wrong in our society.

It foments the narcissist view of "I create" over the more humble truth that "We built."

It fuels the sociopathic view that great societies can't or shouldn't commit to great health care, great education and safety nets.

It's a relic of a time when the stark choice was between the black hole of communism and totalitarianism, and the (Read more...)