Friday, January 30, 2009

Task force to study how to rejuvenate the middle class

Almost 18 months ago I wrote a post on the need to rejuvenate the dying middle class in America, so I am glad to see that somebody in Washington has woken up to that reality as President Obama and VP Biden have announced the formation of a task force to study and hopefully "fix" the middle class - the White House Task Force on Middle Class Working Families. Whether their efforts will go anywhere is another matter, but at least they are taking a step in the right direction. Limited details about the task force are available. The short summary:

The Task Force is a major initiative targeted at raising the living standards of middle-class, working families in America. It is comprised of top-level administration policy makers, and in addition to regular meetings, it will conduct outreach sessions with representatives of labor, business, and the advocacy communities. The Task Force will be chaired by Vice President Joe Biden. The Vice President and members of the task force will work with a wide array of federal agencies that have responsibility for key issues facing the middle class and expedite administrative reforms, propose Executive orders, and develop legislative and policy proposals that can be of special importance to working families.

Goals include:

  • Expanding education and lifelong training opportunities
  • Improving work and family balance
  • Restoring labor standards, including workplace safety
  • Helping to protect middle-class and working-family incomes
  • Protecting retirement security

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Al Gore's Senate climate crisis testimony

The U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee has posted the testimony (prepared statement) of former Vice President Al Gore at a hearing on climate change entitled "Addressing Global Climate Change: The Road to Copenhagen." There was a lot of Q&A and discussion (and pictures) that followed that is not in the prepared statement. Ranking Member Senator Lugar presented a prepared opening statement, but committee Chairman Kerry did not have a prepared opening statement.

I have not read through all of this in detail yet, but there does not appear to be much of anything new, but simply people saying we need to get back on the pre-Bush track and pick up the pace and show some true global leadership.

-- Jack Krupansky

Mesosphere carbon dioxide

I have been curious about what happens to carbon dioxide at very high altitudes. Does it freeze?

I stumbled across an interesting tidbit about the mesosphere, the atmospheric layer above the stratosphere:

In the lower atmosphere CO2 acts as a so called greenhouse gas by absorbing infrared radiation radiated by the earth's surface. In the rarefied mesosphere CO2 actually cools the atmosphere by radiating heat into space. (The summer mesopause is getting colder, possibly because of the cooling effect of increased anthropogenic carbon dioxide and methane emissions.)

A temperature minimum of -90°C and lower is reached at ~85 km - the mesopause. Near here is the realm of the 'night shining' or noctilucent clouds.

Beyond the mesopause temperatures rise again because of reduced radiative cooling combined with heating by absorption of short wavelength,<180 nm, UV radiation by O2, O atoms and N2.


I had mistakenly believed that carbon dioxide froze at -40 F, but it actually freezes at -109.3 F or -78.5 C. It only gets that cold near the mesopause, about 47-60 miles up, and the air is super-thin there, 1/100K to 1/1M of sea level. So, in theory, you could get some carbon dioxide crystals up there, but by definition not very many.

It never gets cold enough in the Arctic to freeze carbon dioxide (at least on the surface), but it has gotten below -110 F in Eastern Antarctica (down to -128 F.) The normal temperature chart for Antarctica shows -70 F as the normal coldest there. That is at the surface. I have no idea what the normal lapse rate is, but it seems possible that it could get cold enough up at 2 to 5 miles to freeze carbon dioxide out of the air. But, except for rare occasions, falling towards the surface would reach the sublimation temperature and it would revert to a gas.

In short, very little carbon dioxide would normally freeze in even at a few extreme locations.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Cafe Philo in New York City - this week: "Is Globalization is Good Thing?"

The discussion topic for the next Cafe Philo in New York City, this week on Thursday, January 29, 2009, is "Is Globalization a Good Thing?".

As usual, Bernard Roy will be the moderator.

As usual, the meeting will be held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the back room at Bamiyan Restaurant (Afghan food) at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and 26th Street in New York City. In exchange for free meeting space, it is expected that each attendee will purchase a minimum of $5 of food or drink.

There is also usually some number of attendees who go across the street to McCormack's Bar for drinks and food and extended discussion after Cafe Philo, but not limited to the scheduled discussion topic.

There are a number of small groups in the U.S. and Europe who meet regularly to discuss topics related to philosophy. Some of these groups go by the name "Cafe Philo." There is one here in New York City that meets every two weeks, every other Thursday. It is organized and moderated by Bernard Roy, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Each meeting focuses on a specific topic which was suggested and voted on by the participants at the last meeting.

Also, there is an online discussion forum for the NYC Cafe Philo at:

I have been attending the NYC Cafe Philo off and on since 2004. Previously I had attended the Cafe Philo in Washington, D.C. starting in 2001.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, January 23, 2009

Made a new Kiva micro-loan for a Tailor in Nepal

I finally managed to find an available micro-loan on using the money that has already been repaid on some of my loans from last month. I loaned $25 of the total micro-loan of $275 for a tailor in Nepal to buy materials for her work. It is a 12-month loan that was actually disbursed by the local loan partner on January 5, 2009. The first payment is due on April 15, the final payment is due March 15, 2010. That is more than 12 months from now, but the idea is that the micro-entrepreneur will get a few months to ramp up before the first payment is due, so the full "repayment term" is from the day that the first payment is due.

Here is the description of her loan request:

Mrs. Sanumaiya Kapaley is a tailor in the town of Balkhu. She opened her tailoring shop 10 years ago. Her specialty is making custom-fitted ladies dresses like the Kurta Sulwar, which is very popular with Nepali women. Before starting her own business, Mrs. Kapaley took a 6 month training course in tailoring from a tailor shop near her locality. She is requesting a loan to buy materials for her tailoring work. She wants to add to her family's income and support her children's education. She has one son and three daughters, who are all studying. Her husband, Mr. Rati Ram Kapaley, works in an office.

I now have 13 micro-loans outstanding, to micro-entrepreneurs located in Ghana, Uganda, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Lebanon, Tajikistan, Peru, and Nicaragua. How is that for "globalization."

My hope is that each month I will get enough repayments to fund another new micro-loan.

My strategy for selecting loans is simply to find loans that are almost completely funded so that my loan amount will complete the funding so that the full loan will then be on its way.

-- Jack Krupansky

No available Kiva loan requests!

I was going to fund another micro-loan through using the money that has already been repaid on some of my loans from last month, but the Kiva Web site reports that they have no available loans to be funded! In other words, there is actually an over-supply of money to be lent relative to demand for new borrowing. Part of the issue is manpower on the ground in these developing countries to rapidly but properly process loan requests from the local micro-entrepreneurs. Not to complain, because we lenders depend on those local lending partners to properly vet loan requests. The local requests also need to be translated into English.

The list of available loans is updated every hour. I hit refresh a few times and eventually the "no loans" page is replaced with a loan page that has one new loan that was funded even before I clicked "Lend."


But it just goes to show that despite the "recession" and all of the people who have lost jobs, there is still a vast amount of free cash sloshing around in the economy.

I'll check back at a slower time of day, like maybe early tomorrow morning.

I just hit refresh again and another single loan is available. I clicked refresh again and it was actually still available. A couple more refreshes and it is at 72% funded. I could fund it, but this is an experiment to see how quickly a fresh loan is getting funded. ... 78% ... gone ... and yet another loan comes and goes in a single refresh ... now three loans available ... now gone -- fundraising page says four, but all have been funded! Kiva needs a better real-time database interface. Still, that is a "good" problem to have in today's economy.

Wait... a new loan appeared and still needs another $25 ... click "Lend" ... oh well, "Due to the overwhelming demand of other users, it was not possible to fulfill your loan." Maybe tomorrow.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Scientists attempt to extrapolate temperature trends for Antarctica

A post on the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Web site entitled "Satellites Confirm Half-Century of West Antarctic Warming" discusses a new scientific paper by Eric Steig, et al to appear in Nature entitled "2009: Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year" that explains how scientists are using various statistical and modeling techniques to extrapolate a 50-year model of the temperature trends for Antarctica from a somewhat limited actual historical record. The post says that:

The Antarctic Peninsula juts into the Southern Ocean, reaching farther north than any other part of the continent. The southernmost reach of global warming was believed to be limited to this narrow strip of land, while the rest of the continent was presumed to be cooling or stable.

Not so, according to a new analysis involving NASA data. In fact, the study has confirmed a trend suspected by some climate scientists.

"Everyone knows it has been warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, where there are lots of weather stations collecting data," said Eric Steig, a climate researcher at the University of Washington in Seattle, and lead author of the study. "Our analysis told us that it is also warming in West Antarctica."

They summararize their approach:

The finding is the result of a novel combination of historical temperature data from ground-based weather stations and more recent data from satellites. Steig and colleagues used data from each record to fill in gaps in the other and to reconstruct a 50-year history of surface temperatures across Antarctica.

It goes to explain that:

With funding from the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs, Steig and colleagues set out to reconstruct Antarctica's recent past. Ground-based stations have recorded temperatures since 1957, but most of those readings come from the peninsula and areas on the edges of the continent. But at the same time, scientists such as study co-author Joey Comiso of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., have been gathering measurements from a series of Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instruments deployed on satellites since 1981.

To construct the new 50-year temperature record, the team applied a statistical technique to estimate temperatures missing from ground-based observations. They calculated the relationship between overlapping satellite and ground-station measurements over the past 26 years. Next, they applied that correlation to ground measurements from 1957 to 1981 and calculated what the satellites would have observed.

The new analysis shows that Antarctic surface temperatures increased an average of 0.22 degrees F (0.12 degrees C) per decade between 1957 and 2006. That's a rise of more than 1 degree F (0.5 degree C) in the last half century. West Antarctica warmed at a higher rate, rising 0.31 degree F (0.17 degree C) per decade. The results, published Jan. 22 in Nature, confirm earlier findings based on limited weather station data and ice cores.

While some areas of East Antarctica have been cooling in recent decades, the longer 50-year trend depicts that, on average, temperatures are rising across the continent.

They candidly state that they do not have a hard conclusion about the cause of the warming trend in Antarctica:

To identify causes of the warming, the team turned to Drew Shindell of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, who has used computer models to identify mechanisms driving Antarctica's enigmatic temperature trends.

Previously, researchers focused on Antarctic ozone depletion, which influences large-scale atmospheric fluctuations around the continent -- most notably, the Southern Annular Mode, which speeds up wind flow to isolate and cool the continent.

Shindell compared Steig's temperature data with results from a computer model that can simulate the response of the atmospheric system to changes in land surface, ice cover, sea surface temperatures, and atmospheric composition. He found the ozone-influenced Southern Annular Mode is not necessarily the primary influence on Antarctic climate. Instead, it appears that smaller-scale, regional changes in wind circulation are bringing warmer air and more moisture-laden storms to West Antarctica.

"We still believe ozone depletion can increase wind speeds around Antarctica, further isolating the interior," Shindell said. "But it's clear now that it's not such a dominant influence on temperature trends."

There is a lot of interesting information here, but not enough detail to convince me that their model for extrapolating temperature for a rather large area for a significant number of years is at all accurate enough to reliably fill such a gaping abyss in their limited historical data record. Maybe the extrapolation is accurate, or maybe not. It is hard to say.

Plenty more research is surely needed, and maybe we simply need to collect additional data for more years to come with more real temperature readings rather than extrapolations.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

2008 Global Temperature Ties As Eighth Warmest On Record

An article on ScienceDaily entitled "2008 Global Temperature Ties As Eighth Warmest On Record" reports that "The year 2008 tied with 2001 as the eighth warmest year on record for the Earth, based on the combined average of worldwide land and ocean surface temperatures." The article was based on the Climate of 2008 Annual Report from the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The real bottom line is that we are not setting global temperature records one right after the other. 2005 was a near-term peak, but the three years since have been slightly cooler. The decline from the peak can be seen on this chart. Even the average temperature of land in the northern hemisphere, where the "warming" is supposedly the most pronounced, is only the 5th highest on record. The ocean in the southern hemisphere is the 10th highest on record.

There is also an anomaly with surface vs. the middle troposphere (2-6 miles) temperatures, with the mid-troposphere showing a marked decline from a 2002 peak and with 2008 actually being lower than the 20th century average.

Also, 2008 was not a new record-low year for Northern Hemisphere sea ice extent. And in fact, Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent actually set record for the largest extent in a number of months.

None of this either proves or disproves any theses about global warming, and simply serves to emphasize that the data is highly variable and the actual long-term trend is rather unclear.

-- Jack Krupansky

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are SAFE to eat!

The Hershey Company says that Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are in fact SAFE to eat:

The Hershey Company Does Not Purchase Peanut Butter,
Peanuts or Peanut Products from Peanut Corporation of America
All Hershey and Reese's candies are safe to consume

HERSHEY, PA., January 17, 2009 - The Hershey Company (NYSE: HSY) today issued a statement related to peanuts:

No products made by The Hershey Company, including items and brands in the iconic Reese's franchise, are affected by the recent recall related to peanut butter. Hershey does not purchase any peanut butter, peanuts or peanut products from the Peanut Corporation of America. Peanut butter for Reese's Peanut Butter Cups is made in Hershey facilities under the most stringent safety and quality standards.

All of our products are safe to consume. This includes all items sold to other food companies and used as ingredients in other products.

Consumers with any questions regarding this issue should call our Consumer Relations line at 1-800-468-1714.

So, there you have it, Reese's Peatnut Butter Cups are SAFE to it.

You can check the FDA recall list for the current peanut butter Salmonella outbreak to see for yourself that Reese's is not on the list.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Depression

At a public philosophy discussion that I was moderating on Thursday evening one participant started to make a point saying "In the Depression, ..." I interrupted him and asked whether he was referring to the current depression or the last one. My query got a few laughs, but at least some of the laughter was probably nervous laughter. Maybe that about sums up where people feel that we are, not convinced that the current economic situation is necessarily headed for a full-blown depression, but not absolutely convinced otherwise either.

The next year will tell us what we are really dealing with.

I continue to belief that we are dealing with merely a "recession with adjectives" and that the combination of the actions of the Federal Reserve, fiscal stimulus, corporate restructuring, the vast amounts of money still in private hands, and just the passage of time will restore at least a facsimile of growth shortly.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Unshackled from unreality

It is interesting that the stars of two very unrealistic but popular TV shows, "Fantasy Island" and "The Prisoner", have just died. It is almost as if we are now being freed from being trapped by these unrealities. Maybe we will no longer hope to live on a "fantasy island" and no longer feel that we are "the prisoner" in a prison from which there is no hope of escape. Maybe now we can get on with real life and feel that we actually do have a sense of control of our own destinies.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Apple Media Advisory: Jobs to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June

Here is the link to the official Apple Media Advisory concerning Steve Jobs' medical leave of absence. You have probably already seen the text of the internal Apple email:

Apple Media Advisory

Apple CEO Steve Jobs today sent the following email to all Apple employees:


I am sure all of you saw my letter last week sharing something very personal with the Apple community. Unfortunately, the curiosity over my personal health continues to be a distraction not only for me and my family, but everyone else at Apple as well. In addition, during the past week I have learned that my health-related issues are more complex than I originally thought.

In order to take myself out of the limelight and focus on my health, and to allow everyone at Apple to focus on delivering extraordinary products, I have decided to take a medical leave of absence until the end of June.

I have asked Tim Cook to be responsible for Apple's day to day operations, and I know he and the rest of the executive management team will do a great job. As CEO, I plan to remain involved in major strategic decisions while I am out. Our board of directors fully supports this plan.

I look forward to seeing all of you this summer.


A wise decision by Steve. There was no need to martyr himself in pursuit of the insane ideal of performance and perfection that so many Apple zealots and followers had been promoting in such an idealistic and unrealistic manner.

Just last week I recommended that Jobs take a break. I am glad to see that his thinking is in line with mine.

Meanwhile, I am sure that Apple will survive just fine without him for the next six months.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The myth of the exponential

Continuing on a theme related to my recent post about so-called accelerating change, I also get annoyed every time I hear somebody claim that some process is "exponential." While it is certainly true that many processes can be "exponential" for periods of time, it is always the case that eventually some limits are reached and the process ceases to be exponential, meaning that the overall process is not exponential at all. Availability of resources is one of the most common limits that is reached. In human social processes, mere desire may be the limiting factor. For example, a group might grow exponentially while relatively small, but the desirability of being part of the group may decline when the benefits of the group are no longer achievable with a large group size. Communication overhead, crowding of voices, and limitations of meeting space may deter the former "exponential" growth. Another example would be a process that depends on a scarce commodity that is available in moderate supply for low or moderate demand, but whose price rises ("exponentially"?!?) as demand rises, once again dampening the effective growth rate so that it is not exponential at all, except for a short stretch of time.

A true exponential rises to infinity, but a typical real-world process that rises rapidly will typically reach a stage where the rate of change declines rapidly and may even reverse.

In my experience, people label a process as "exponential" simply because it is currently fast, without any deep analysis of how the process might evolve far beyond the very near future. And the real problem is that people are using the recent past to project endlessly into the future.

People sometimes talk about the world population growth being exponential, but the fact is that global population growth has been slowing since the 1970's. The simple fact is that processes evolve, which results in changes to their rate.

The core problem to me is that people are using the "exponential" label as a hit-and-run sales tactic, less interested in truly enlightening us about the future and more focused on attracting our attention in the near term to serve some undisclosed agenda. Besides, if a process really is exponential, you are not really losing out by failing to jump in early since later growth will be just as great for latecomers. But the sad truth is that current excitement is a poor indicator of future growth.

The real truth is that time is the enemy of all supposed exponential processes. Not the enemy to the process itself (such as global population), but enemy to the claim that the process rate is "exponential."

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, January 09, 2009

Is change accelerating or merely accumulating?

I get annoyed every time I hear somebody claim that "change is accelerating." Usually they are simply full of crap and simply mindlessly repeating a nostrum that they picked up from somebody else. I suspect that at best they simply mean that change is occurring constantly and the changes are accumulating at a decent clip. Mostly I suspect that they do not know precisely what they are saying at all and that their motivation is to arouse passion rather than to enlighten.

To use the simple physical metaphor of distance, velocity, and acceleration, if you are driving down the highway at a constant velocity your distance traveled continues to grow at a constant rate. Over time, the magnitude of the distance traveled can begin to seem overwhelming, but that is not due to any ongoing acceleration.

To be fair, sometimes people refer to "accelerating change" to mean exerting an extra effort to force change to occur or to force change to occur at a faster pace. Still, once the change is underway, the actual rate of change is not necessarily accelerating.

There also seems to be a tendency for people to misguidedly label a change or process to be "exponential" when in fact the overall lifecycle may not be exponential at all. At best, a process may be exponential for relatively short periods of time when the magnitude is relatively small and growth is relatively easy, but very quickly various limitations are usually encountered and the process suddenly slows to a much more sedate pace or even reverses. What is the point of accelerating at an exponential rate for a short time if very soon you will begin decelerating at an exponential rate? Better to simply describe a process as a bell curve or parabolic than mislead by calling it exponential.

Slapping the "exponential" or "accelerating" label on a process may engender great excitement, enthusiasm, passion, and media attention, but rarely enlightens us as to the underlying nature of the phenomenon.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Cafe Philo in New York City - next week: "What is meant by suffering?"

There are a number of small groups in the U.S. and Europe who meet regularly to discuss topics related to philosophy. Some of these groups go by the name "Cafe Philo." There is one here in New York City that meets every two weeks, every other Thursday. It is organized and moderated by Bernard Roy, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ramapo College of New Jersey. Each meeting focuses on a specific topic which was suggested and voted on by the participants at the last meeting.

The meetings are held from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the back room at Bamiyan Restaurant (Afghan food) at the northwest corner of Third Avenue and 26th Street in New York City. In exchange for free meeting space, it is expected that each attendee will purchase a minimum of $5 of food or drink.

There is usually some number of attendees who go across the street to McCormack's Bar for drinks and food and extended discussion after Cafe Philo.

We skipped Thursday, January 1, 2009 due to the holidays, so the next meeting will be on Thursday, January 15, 2009.

The discussion topic for this next meeting is "What is meant by suffering?".

I will be the guest moderator at this next meeting since Bernard will not have returned from France.

Also, there is an online discussion forum for the NYC Cafe Philo at:

I have been attending the NYC Cafe Philo off and on since 2004. Previously I had attended the Cafe Philo in Washington, D.C. starting in 2001.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Edge question for 2009: What will change everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?

John Brockman's Edge question for 2009 is now out: What will change everything? What game-changing scientific ideas and developments do you expect to live to see?

There are 151 contributors, for a total of 107,000 words.

I have not even begun reading any of them yet, but this one sounded intriguing:

Physicist; Albert Einstein Professor of Science, Princeton University; Coauthor, Endless Universe


And I definitely need to read this one:

Marti Hearst
Computer Scientist, UC Berkeley, School of Information; Author, Search User Interfaces


-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, January 05, 2009

Steve Jobs should take a break!

Geez, what does Steve Jobs need to do to prove his loyalty to his rabid followers?!?! Does he really need to martyr himself? Okay, he has some health issues, but is working harder going to solve them? Will Apple really collapse if Steve takes off for a year to get some needed R&R? What is it that his "followers" expect him to prove by not taking a break?

My advice to Steve: Take a break, rest, travel, write a book, speak to kids in schools, whatever, but slow down until it is crystal clear that you are not sacrificing yourself, your health, for the whims of your followers who are unable to accept that you are mortal.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Netbook PCs

A year ago (or so) I first heard about a company producing a stripped-down notebook PC that would only run Windows XP. I thought it was interesting, but more of a curiosity than a wave of things to come. But now, so-called "netbooks" are all the range. From a Reuters article on the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show (CES):


CES is likely to be awash in small, $300 to $400 laptops known as netbooks, which are gaining popularity, even as overall PC sales stall. IDC expects netbook unit shipments to surge 85 percent to 21.5 million in 2009.

Nearly every PC maker except Apple Inc has thrown its hat into the netbook space, hoping that volume sales will make up for lower margins. Analysts expect to see even cheaper netbooks emerge for 2009, possibly below $200.

So far, according to DisplaySearch, Taiwan's Acer Inc and Asustek Computer Inc dominate the netbook market, as Hewlett-Packard Co and Dell Inc struggle to catch up. Some expect Sony to unveil a netbook at CES.

I do not expect that the current crop of netbooks will be able to replace even my three-year old Toshiba notebook PC, but they do sound intriguing and may be a better alternative for lower-end educational purposes. $300 and "green" to boot.

My suspicion is that another two revision cycles for hardware and software will result in a "converged" netbook/notebook market. A slimmed-down Windows 7 and cheaper 32-64GB flash memory could become the new standard for even professional-grade mobile computing in two years.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Still not sure what to do with an extra $20 other than to save it

I still have an extra $20 bill from last week, with no new great ideas for something productive to do with it. My default is to save it (and earn 3% interest), but I would prefer to find something to do with it that would have some more substantial, longer term impact than, say, paying my electric bill.

I would like to find something that would make some noticeable difference a year from now.

Maybe the simple fact is that $20 is small change these days. But  that begs the question of what I would do with an extra $200 or $2,000 or even $20,000.

Two ideas that come to mind are that maybe I could attend some professional training seminar or trade conference.

Maybe the real question is not the money or financial cost per se, but what can I productively do with my time, how can I more productively use an hour or two or day or two of my time for a more significant, longer-term gain.

-- Jack Krupansky