Bill Eccles: October 2008 Archives

A Prayer for the Bizilj Family

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Last night, during prayer time, I did my best to explain to W. and O. that sometimes we just don’t know why bad things happen, but that we know and must have faith that God is using the bad things to do something good. We may never know what that something is, but we know, because the Bible tells us, that He’s up to something good, even when it’s a bad thing that’s involved.

I had a hard time holding back the tears as I explained. Rather, I failed miserably. The sadness I felt for the Biziljs is heart-wrenching.

But I’m not the only one. O. said to me, “Dad, if you hear me crying, don’t worry.”

God, please comfort the Biziljs. Grant them peace. Cry with them, support them, love them. And, if at all possible, bless them with understanding.

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

Article here.

Words cannot express the deep sorrow that we feel for you. We pray for peace and comfort for you.

The Eccles

Article here.

Now there’s a shock.

The weird thing is that the article says, and I quote:

The stunning decline of oil prices in recent weeks has left oil-exporting countries fearful that they will have to cut government budgets, including the popular social programs that cement many leaders’ hold on power.

So what social programs did these dictators put into place in the course of less than two years? In the United States, the only social program we managed to put into place in the course of less than two years (which was the last time prices were this low) was to hand out cash.

Hmmm… Is that what they’re doing with our money?

Or is it this?

Or is it both?

Drill, baby, drill!, indeed!

Article here.

My wife and I will likely fall into the “Obama’s Wealth Redistribution” category when he is elected. (Sorry, Senator McCain, but you keep shooting yourself in the foot and unless you pull off a miracle—and I’m praying for one—on November 4th, B. Hussein Obama will win the election.) Even though our income will be greater than Obamessiah’s magic (and arbitrary) number of $250,000, we’re paid not much more per hour than some telemarketers, drafters, RN’s, and other not-usually-considered-rich people.

I’m the less-hard-working of the two of us. I work 40-hour weeks. A lot of those “less rich” people mentioned above work harder than I do. So perhaps I deserve to be taxed a little more than most.

But my wife is another story entirely. She works 70+ hours per week to earn that money, and she works harder than many of those people who aren’t considered “rich” by Obamessiah. And yet she still earns less per hour than those folks I mentioned above. Talk about your disincentives!

So, is $250,000 a fair number? It doesn’t matter: it’s the method used to determine who’s rich and who’s not. It doesn’t take into account how hard someone works for that money, and it certainly doesn’t take into account how that person’s take-home pay is used. Is it being saved? Is it being invested? (These are two activities that we in the US punish, not reward, and I’m betting that Hussein will continue that trend by increasing capital gains taxes.)

So tax the rich more, but for goodness’ sake, tax those who don’t work for their money (lucky gamblers and lottery winners come to mind). Tax the people who are significantly overpaid. (What attorney is worth $1000 per hour? What CEO is worth $20,000 per hour? What entertainer is worth $73,000 per hour?).+

Bottom line, Barry: Don’t assume that earning money makes us rich. Working for a fair wage and being paid a fair wage should not be the handicap you would have it be.


+ I took the numbers I found at the referenced sites and divided them by 80 hours per week, 52 weeks a year. That’s being ridiculously conservative and makes their hourly rates appear to be smaller than they really are. In reality, how many hours per week do these guys work? And how many of them work 52 weeks per year, i.e., with no vacation? Again, taking that into account would only serve to increase their hourly rate.

For example, if Howard Stern works only, say, sixty hours per week and 50 weeks per year, his hourly rate goes from $73,000 to $101,000. Can you say “absurd,” boys and girls?

Good. I knew you could.

NO!

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I’ve wanted to do this for a while. Feel free to do with this what you wish.

NO!.jpeg

Stupid CL&P Website

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Connecticut Light and Power wants my money. And I (sorta’) want to give it to them.

But they’re making it damned hard to do so.

Deciding to do it electronically, I ventured to the CL&P website. I was suspicious that I’d already registered with the website, but I didn’t remember anything about it. So, without checking my password list (yes, I have one, and it’s about 300 entries long…), I decided to reregister, because that will tell me what I need to know, usually, such as what my username might look like and what my password might be.

As I reregistered on this page, I was presented with a list of “secret questions” which, as Sarah Palin can tell you, aren’t so secret after all. These are the questions:

  • What is your mother’s maiden name?
  • What is your most memorable childhood phone number?
  • What was your favorite place to visit as a child?
  • Who is your favorite actor, musician, or artist?
  • Who was your favorite teacher?
  • What is the first and last name of your first friend?

There is exactly one question that is a simple fact. The rest are completely subjective depending on what you remember your “favorite” or “most memorable” something might be. Oh, and you webmasters who are smugly thinking, “Ha! We’re better than that. We use dates!” can go spit, too, because you never tell us what format that date might be in, and I’m somehow expected to remember it. (Did I enter it as April 1, 1934, or is it 1 April 1934, or is it 4/1/34, or is it 4/1/1934…? Crap.) Even that phone number option is crap because there are too many ways to enter that, too.

So I decided to try registering with my mother’s maiden name, even though it is 100% contrary to my belief that nobody should have that information outside the credit reporting agencies. But since my identity has been stolen already, what the hell…

As I suspected, though, I was told that I had already registered. I looked it up in the monster password list and sure enough, I was! I then tried to enter my written-down, never-to-be-forgotten username and password only to discover they were wrong! (How that happened, I don’t know.) Sigh. I’d have to use the “reset my password” feature. Sigh, again. Because that required that I answer the question as to who my favorite teacher was.

Who? indeed! Not only Who? but How? As in, How the heck did I spell his or her name when I registered the first time. Did I refer to him or her as I would another adult, such as “Sara Beth Ryan”, or was it “Mrs. Ryan”? For that matter, who was it in the first place?! My favorite teacher? What was I thinking?! Oh, I know what I was thinking. I was thinking “I’ll just write this password down and I won’t have to use this stupid question.”

Wrong. Thank you, Ed.

I thought, being the rational human that I am, that I’d have them reset my password for me. Since this is an online thing, I thought I’d use the Contact Us page. Click! Now, you tell me: which of the following options covers “website access problems”?

  • Customer Service Center
  • CL&P’s Business Solutions Specialists
  • Corporate Numbers
  • Credit and Collection Center
  • Call in a Meter Reading
  • Business Metering Options
  • Report Energy Theft
  • Write
  • Email

Certainly not “Customer Service Center.” I have yet to meet a company where the customer service center people can do diddly-squat with website account problems. So… Email (sic) it is.

This same “Contact Us” page has a “Comments” field into which I dutifully, lovingly, carefully, composed a superb complaint and request. After submitting the form, however, I was told that I was limited to 300 characters. Wha…? Come on, lazy website designer! Come on, idiot in Customer Service who picked that arbitrary number! Consider that six lines of JavaScript could count characters or, heck, even just telling me from the start not to bother composing a letter and that I have only 300 characters to work with would be incredibly useful.

After I submitted my now-terse request for a reset, I was told that my E-mail would be responded to within four business days. Four. Four?! But for immediate assistance, I could call the customer service center… Except now, I can’t! Let’s say that the customer service people do know how to deal with website problems. They dutifully reset my password and, great, I’m back in business.

And then the customer service department E-mail processor gets my E-mail, forwards it on to the next guy, and a week after I got online, I’m now back off line again. Presumably, they’d tell me about this somehow, and I presume it would be by phone, but since there’s nothing saying they won’t try E-mailing me and there’s nothing saying it’ll get through the spam filter in the first place…

Screw you, CL&P; I’ve had enough. You can continue to process my checks manually. It’ll cost you more and will save my being frustrated with your website.

Update: 11-10-2008 I called customer service and that lady asked me what I’d like my password to be. I told her, she reset it, and I still can’t log in. Sigh. I’ll have to try that with the next person on the phone, I guess.

Article here.

Apple changed the lightbulb of the Energy Saver preferences panel to a CFL bulb.

As I continue to say, it’s the details that Apple pays attention to and which they mostly get right.

Never on a Dell would you find this level of care, but mostly because Microsoft doesn’t give a crap.

Article here.

There’s supposedly an iPhone client in the iTunes approval process. I’ll bet it gets disapproved.

And when it does, I’ll bet that LaLa files suit against Apple for anti-competitive practices.

And I’ll bet LaLa wins.

Article here.

So… she’s going to go to court in about a month and faces up to six months in jail and $1,000 in fines.

Seems to me that the best interest of the public would be served if the town just bought the kids a football or two. It’d save a helluva lot of the public’s resources and I’m guessing the kids aren’t going to let the football go into the old bat’s yard again anyway.

Good grief, but we’re stupid sometimes.

Article here.

Another good reason to move to California (the first OJ trial is the other good reason to move there): California juries aren’t all that bright.

You see, Britney was driving without a license.

But the jury can’t reach a verdict as to whether or not she was driving without a license.

Hmmm.

(Why the hell is this a jury trial in the first place, anyway? Isn’t that a complete waste of a lot of people’s time… and money?)

Courtesy of my AP News Reader app on my iPhone:

onlyinct.jpg

Links to the original stories:

Man charged with moving ambulance at emergency

Conn. man accused of stealing NY police cruiser

Why We Hate the MPAA and RIAA

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Tonight, as I was attempting to watch a DVD—legally obtained from Netflix, mind you—of Mad Men (excellent), I suddenly realized why it is that we don’t want the MPAA, RIAA and their ilk to continue to thrust their hooks into every aspect of our media perceiving habits.

It’s because they will abuse their power.

I can’t count the number of DVDs I’ve watched where I am forced, through agreement between the studios and the player manufacturers, to watch the same damned FBI or INTERPOL warning. (United States Code, Title 17, Sections 501 and 506, in case you’re interested.) You usually can’t skip it by pressing the “Next” button, and a lot of the time, you can’t fast forward, either. OK, so it might be in their best interest to make sure that we, the non-infringing consumers, know the law is on their side if we copy their movies and sell them in a market in China or, God forbid! show them in the church basement at a lock-in. That might be an acceptable use of their power.

The problem is, the studios are drunk with their power and the lawyers can’t get enough of themselves. Not only do we have to endure the FBI and INTERPOL warnings, but we also have to endure a stern warning that the studios have no idea what the audio commentary on the DVD may or may not say and, in fact, deny and disavow any relationship with any of that audio commentary because they might or might not agree with and/or disagree with the audio commentary recorded therein. Nevermind the fact that (1) I don’t ever listen to those commentaries and that (2) most sane individuals wouldn’t think that Jon Hamm’s opinion of the coloring of that one scene was particularly bad was particularly licentious and ascribe it to the studio, its producers, lawyers, environmental awareness team, or cafeteria staff and thereby find reason to sue the studio for the unspeakable horror inflicted upon the viewer/listener.

No, no, no… by simply putting this mandatory 15 second waste of your life into your viewing experience, the studio somehow becomes instantly innocent even if you are just nuts enough to sue their precious studio because Jon Hamm expressed some odd opinion that offended your color temperature.

But maybe that’s an acceptable use of their power because it keeps lawyers from being able to take on that particular suit, thereby saving the studio the cost of defending it and lowering the cost of the movies for the consumers. (Brief pause while I clean the milk off the screen from my perfectly-executed spit-take.)

Unfortunately, the studios go way too far. Why, for goodness’ sake, must I sit through the frickin’ studio’s overwrought and egotistical “splash screen,” for lack of better term?! (Lionsgate, I am talkin’ directly to you.) I can’t fast forward or skip it, and yet each time I put the disc in, I must endure those stupid gears meshing in all of their glory to express just how… just how something Lionsgate is, regardless of the fact that I don’t give a rat’s ass what production company or companies made the film—I remember the film for the film and definitely not for the producers, the production company or the movie studio.

I suppose that the reason I have to watch the production company’s “splash screen” has something to do with the guy who signed the check at Lionsgate looking at the end product and realizing that unless people actually saw what he spent their money on, nobody would ever see it because it’s boring and meaningless and they’d skip it anyway. “Sherri, get the DVD encoding house on the line. I want to force our viewers to see that crap I just spent all that dough on…”

Narcissism, thy name is Lionsgate.

The scary thing is that I know we’re only seeing the beginning of this abuse of the consumer and the abuse of the studios’ power. And if I knew of a way to revolt, I would.

Sigh. I guess I’ll just bend over and take it just like everybody else.

Mutually Exclusive

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How come I’ve never seen these two stickers on the same car?

fish_clipart.gifST29703-50-1.jpg

And how come there isn’t a “Christians for Obama” sticker available on Obama’s website?

There’s one for Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, First Americans (?!), women, gays, lesbians, Catholics, Hebrews, Veterans and even Republicans…

MacBook Pro... Gutted!

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Article here.

I saw this at the Apple Boston store the other day and thought, “Cool.” But I think John and I are actually in agreement on this one.

Steve, this is commercialism at its worst. And educators, if you take your kids to an Apple store as a shopping tripfield trip, you should lose your job. There are plenty of low-cost field trips that cost just as much or just as little as going to a store… a store, for goodness’ sake… especially in cities where Apple has put their retail presence.

Unless you’re an architecture class. Then there’s a good reason to go.

If I remember the traditional characteristics of scientists and engineers, this article doesn’t say much for Obama, or anybody else they’d choose to endorse. Just because a bunch of brainiacs, whose worldviews tend to be very focused on their areas of expertise, endorse any candidate doesn’t mean much to me.

If one of them had a recommendation for, say, a great way to synthesize a fluorescent green protein, then I might be interested.

I’m intrigued that the Nobel Laureates felt the need to use their celebrity to endorse a political candidate. That puts them into the same category as Tom Cruise and Madonna.

Just because these people are each smart about one thing, celebrated though they may be, it doesn’t mean that their celebrity makes them any wiser than anybody else.

The article’s headline misrepresents reality. Because where I come from, 53% plus or minus 4.4% is not a clear majority.

This is the same kind of crap I’ve come to expect from the same media that emphasizes the margin of error, especially when the poll results show the spread between the two candidates as being outside that margin of error in Obama’s favor.

Anatomy of a Lego Minifig

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We just ordered one of these for Terry’s office. It fits incredibly well with her Lego+Pediatrics theme.

minifig.jpg

You can order one for yourself from here.

Weather Report For Kids

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A great weather report for kids… and adults… from the creator of flagrantdisregard.com. Add it to your bookmarks bar and the kids have one-click access to what the weather’s going to be.

The latest Security Update (dated October 9, 2008) appears to be PHP neutral.

Through not-so-rigorous testing (i.e., comparing the results of “php -i” before and after the upgrade), I have determined that the latest Security Update appears to change nothing in my PHP installation. Your mileage may vary.

Damn Cool Pics: Fun With Obama

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Well thank God for that.

Let’s just hope that the legislature sees it as an open issue, too.

An observation about rants, in particular, this one.

Silly Mr. Leeeeee who wrote that rant claims there’s no person at the North Pole named “Santa Clause.”

Just like there’s no guy in the White House named “George W. Bushe.”

Seriously… If you’re going to rant about something, at least spell it right.

And… did you have to be so darned mean?

(Thanks, Laura!)

Conservatives are... Conservative

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After reading the liberal-leaning, Obama-lovin’ status updates and posts of a bunch of my liberal friends on FaceBook, I realized that I wasn’t reading any comments—none—from right-leaning, McCain-friendly conservatives.

I pondered this for many moons. And last night, I finally understood why there aren’t any conservatives ranting about McCain this or Obama that:

It’s because we’re conservative.

Duh.

Where are the right-wing loudmouths? You wanna’ talk about the definition of oxymoron

In general (with exceptions, of course), it’s because we’re naturally disinclined to share our opinion. We keep our values and opinions close to the chest because we’re (get this, now) conservative. And that’s why Tom Cruise and Madonna and their ilk suck up the headlines. It’s because there’s no competition!

Not that they’d get any headlines even if there were…

I just hope all these silent majority show up at the polls this November.

Wall Street Makes No Sense

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I have a considerable amount “invested” in the stock market, but I don’t understand why anybody considers what I’ve done with my money to be an “investment.”

Consider that the only real “investment” which was ever made in any company which is publicly traded was the first sale of the stock issued by the company. The share is issued and sold and the share has a real value. The company tries to better the value of the share by increasing real value of the company so that the share price goes up, and the share gets sold for that increased value, right?

Wrong. Completely wrong.

You see, the share goes out, but the share has an absolutely fictitious value because some idiot is willing to pay more than what the real value of a share of that company is. And it just goes downhill from there.

Imagine, for a moment, that I’m half owner of, say, a garden center because I invested $1,000 in the company and my partner invested $1,000 in the company, too.

Let’s just say that we did a great job and grew it into a $1,000,000 company—inventory, buildings, equipment, etc., which totals up to that magic number. Now my share is worth $500,000. Would you, a smart businessperson, pay me anything more that $500,000 for it if I decided to sell out?

Your accountant would say, No frickin’ way! Because that simply doesn’t make any sense whatsoever!

But if your company is publicly traded, you could sell that share to the highest bidder who decides that he wanted that share more than that other guy (and that’s the key, here), so much more that he ended up paying $1,000,000 for it. He owns “something” worth $500,000 still, but paid 100% too much for it.

What an idiot! you think, all the way to the bank!

But here’s the kicker! You get to keep the very same “something” that he supposedly bought! And you get to keep using it to make money. Because all he got for is $1,000,000 is a pretty piece of paper.

Now, let’s say that your partner gets the flu. The idiot with the piece of paper (a “shareholder”) thinks to himself, “Oh, crap, his partner has the flu! The company will be worthless tomorrow!” and he decides to unload that share. So he comes back to you and says, “I want my $1,000,000 back.” And you laugh in his face.

So he turns to his neighbor who knows about this company and says, “Hey, I got this great share of a garden barn. I bought it for $1,000,000. You can buy it if you want.” And he says, “Dude, I heard the partner got the flu. I’ll give you $100,000 for it.” And the original owner takes a $900,000 bath and you get to keep earning money with the equipment.

Who owns the equipment? You still do!

And what has transpired is that the first guy gave you $1,000,000. The second guy gave the first guy $100,000. And neither of them has jack to show for it other than one piece of paper. A piece of paper.

But that’s how Wall Street works, and it still doesn’t make any sense to me.

Worse yet, there are meaningless metrics out there that people use to judge stock values. One of them is “price to earnings” ratio, or P/E. What somebody does is takes the price per share and divides it by the average earnings per share. Wikipedia says that most stocks trade at ratios of 10-25. But what that means is absofrickinlutely nothing. It’s a meaningless statistic used to assess an arbitrary value of a piece of paper which has no

Now, if we required that shares be traded at book value of the company divided by the number of outstanding shares

Article here.

Stop selling!

Don’t you idiots know that the best way to drive a market into the ground is to sell, sell, sell?! That increasing supply lowers prices?!

What the heck do you expect to do with the proceeds of your sales? Invest in worthless bonds? Or put your money away in a bank so that inflation can destroy it for you?

Good God, people! Look at the bargains out there and buy, buy, buy!!

Article here.

The subject and title of the page is a bit misleading in that the problem really seems to have nothing to do with Parallels, but the solution is right on:

If you are experiencing really slow typing performance (“slower than frozen snot”) in Excel 2008 for Macintosh and you have files in File>Open Recent Items… which are from a Windows network volume, then go to Excel>Preferences>General and disable Show this number of recent documents.

Performance should become snappy again.

I was flipping channels and saw something called “Link TV,” a whole channel which was apparently in the process of fundraising because, as it claimed, it is viewer-supported TV.

Nobrain and Numbnuts were on and, since they were wearing Link TV T-shirts, I assume they are somehow associated with LinkTV. They were being interviewed by Talkingheadinasuit who was throwing them softballs.

Nobrain declared that “You could be in the military and learn stuff, like throwing grenades and shooting things, but that’s not a job with real-world skills.” Numbnuts then said something about a group of kids who had “started a document, a manifesto,” and I had to change channels. (Red Dawn on MGM, if you must know. How fitting.)

I wish I could have told them that I went to school to learn how to be an electrical engineer, that I did learn how to be an electrical engineer. That the United States Air Force paid me to do so. That the USAF then hired me to work for them. That I did nothing in the USAF that didn’t help me in my current job as an electrical engineer. That in my training, I learned exactly nothing about grenades, though I did learn how to shoot a 0.38 special (how’s that for firepower?!). And that my job when I graduated was, strangely enough, a job in the “real world.” My boss just happened to be the USAF.

What Nobrain doesn’t realize, of course, is that there’s a lot more to being in the military than shooting guns and throwing grenades. Somebody has to lead, nay, manage these gunslingers and grenade-hurlers, for one. And then there are a bunch of people who have to support those people on the front line, and those jobs require specific, skilled knowledge with real-world applicability. Furthermore, these support personnel require leaders, er, managers, too, who have also done those real-world jobs in the very-real military.

I maintain that if these military jobs aren’t real-world jobs, providing real-world experience (and from which you can retire with real-world retirement benefits), then there is no way in hell that Nobrain and Numbnuts could convince me that a community organizing, lawyering lecturer can possibly have the right stuff, the experience, to be the leader of the free world.

So McCain’s not your cup of tea? At least he has done something. And, for those of you who don’t think the military is the “real world,” remember that people in the military are fighting, bleeding, and providing deterrence in their “pretend” world to protect your very-real butts.

Article here.

Just as soon as Steve steps down as CEO and they hire an idiot a visionary to take his place, I’m sure Apple will do just as Ballmer suggests.

Article here.

The subject article doesn’t come out and say it, so I will:

If you want money to go towards a good cause, just give the money to the good cause and skip the middleman.

You’re just getting the same product at a higher price, and someone else decides how much money goes towards the cause.

And takes your tax deduction.

It used to be that Digg used to be a great place to find a neat link to something new and different. A place where I would see how the “pulse of the Internet” was beating.

However, it’s become a dumping ground for liberal manure. There’s nothing of value on it anymore for a conservative websurfer. I find it hard to believe that the entire population of websurfers in the world are liberal, but that is the conclusion you could be reasonably expected to draw if you look at the most popular links for the last 24 hours on Digg.

Then I Googled “conservative Digg” and, Lo! I found some interesting things. First, I found TechRepublican.com, but that’s more incidental to my quest than anything else. Second, I discovered that Yahoo!’s Buzz drew more traffic than Digg in April of 2008.

Hmmm. Buzz? What’s that?

Buzz is a Digg-like site, but it’s considerably more balanced in its readership, apparently. I like it.

I like it a lot.

Reading today’s list of popular articles, there’s a pretty even mix of news (OJ, Paul Newman, some other stuff), not alarmist liberal manure, and tech (a phone from Nokia, that kind of thing), and even some conservative smackdown on liberals, though it’s balanced by liberal smackdown on conservatives.

And that’s OK. Because, as I’ve said before, there’s no such thing as a conservative Digger.

Buzz. If you used to use Digg, give it a look. You’ll be pleasantly surprised, I think.

Article here.

Well, whaddaya’ know. Even the bastion of the liberal mainstream media agrees with me:

It was fear, not greed, that was driving everyone’s actions.

As I’ve said before, and will probably say again.

Biden's an OWG, Palin's not

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Sarah Palin will face a pretty tough opponent in tomorrow’s Veep Debate. Biden is pretty good with the rhetoric, thinks fast on his feet, and will run over her if she’s not careful.

So how should she approach this monumentally-difficult task?

First, and foremost, she should deflate his sails however possible. Right up front, she should admit to her inexperience in international affairs and do her best to show that she, though a tough “hockey mom,” is also a fallible human being, that she’s not perfect. Biden won’t be able to use those points against her then.

Second, she’ll have to do a great job of differentiating herself from the old white guys (OWGs) in Washington without alienating the people who are relying on the fact that McCain is indeed an OWG.

Third, she’ll have to defend herself against the one-heartbeat-away argument by emphasizing that she is a leader, not a follower as many in government are (and which Obama aspires to be).

Finally, obviously, she can’t promote herself as anything similar to Obama; portraying herself with “young is better than old” would only serve to promote Obama’s position. And she should stick to her guns. If indeed she adheres to creationist doctrine, she shouldn’t waffle if questioned. If she thought the “bridge to nowhere” was a good idea at one point until she changed her mind, she should emphasize that she isn’t so dogmatic in views that she can’t be swayed by logic and reason. The McCain-Palin camp would be wise to have worked each of these attacks into Republican-winning, undecided-swaying rhetoric which—and this is important—she really believes.

It’s going to be tough, but, hey, if Obama can make it on looks and youth, his primary strengths, then Palin should be able to kick his butt, even though she’s playing second fiddle to McCain.