Friday, November 14, 2008

Palin..Brady Bunch?

"Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!", the cry that has gone down in television history that perfectly sums up the popular and beautiful character Marcia Brady in the 1970s show The Brady Bunch. Jan Brady is responsible for the famous line, with which she expresses her frustration at the attention her older sister receives. A similar scene may be playing out between John McCain, who may now be the "Jan" of the 2008 American Presidential election, and Sarah Palin, who easily slides into the role of Marcia.

Isn't a popular Sarah Palin good for John McCain, though? After all, she sure does help shore up his weaknesses. The problem is that she very well may be shoring up those weakness too well.

It's no secret that John McCain's strength does not lie in his oratory skill. Whereas Barack Obama capped off the 2008 Democratic Convention with the best speech of the entire four days, McCain's acceptance speech was out-shined by several others that had been made in the days prior. The true star of the Republican convention? Sarah Palin. "Palin! Palin! Palin!", one might hear McCain grumbling in the background.

Palin is a stronger public speaker than McCain, but that's not her only strength. The Republican base wasn't exactly energized about McCain's nomination. Questions remained about his true loyalties and worries about his "maverick" tendencies ran through the minds of the most conservative republicans. In fact, leading up to the announcement of his running-mate, some Republicans feared that McCain would choose a pro-choice veep! Tom Ridge was supposedly on his short list, and McCain has said some very kind words about him. However, when McCain finally announced the other half of his ticket, the world was surprised at the choice of Sarah Palin. Who was she? Isn't she a bit inexperienced? Is this a ploy to attract disgruntled die-hard Hillary fans?
What the public and the Republicans would find out over the next few days, aside from a couple of controversies, was that Palin is a die-hard conservative. No abortion rights, creationism in schools, abstinence-only education, no gay marriage rights, NRA member, doesn't believe global warming is man-made, and she supports the death penalty. With a list of positions like that, Palin has been able to do what McCain could not: she really energized the base of the Republican party. Again, echos of "Palin! Palin! Palin!" can be heard in the distance.

John McCain may in fact be thrilled with his running-mate, but it's very important for America, conservatives, and liberals to realize that Barack Obama is not running against her, nor she for President. John McCain is the person who will be stepping into the role of Commander-in-Chief if he can get elected, and it will be he who must make the speeches and decisions that only the President can make.

John McCain will not have Sarah Palin's fire and oratory skill to back him up when he faces Barack Obama in the Presidential Debates. Barack Obama will never have to address Sarah Palin if he doesn't want to, and in many ways she may be a more difficult opponent to fight than McCain himself. McCain has been in Washington for 26 years with no real history of great reform or change, he really doesn't have the credibility to sell himself as the agent of change when he's had so much time to do something already. This, of course, works in the favor of Barack Obama, who often cites McCain's voting record and time in Washington as criticisms. Sarah Palin, although far less experienced than John McCain, may be able to sell the "maverick", "reformer", or "shaker-upper" more effectively than he ever could, thus leveling the playing field against Obama. Again, though, she is not running for President of the United States. "Palin, Palin, Palin...", the chant goes on.

So what does John McCain risk by letting Sarah Palin take over the spotlight in the campaign? The problem is, most Americans will not be voting for the Vice President alone, Americans tend to look at the top of the ticket as the most important. John McCain, if he allows Palin to overshadow the fact that he is running for the highest office and she isn't, may do much more for her career as a politician than his. She is a young, fiery, talented Republican, and one might say that she is being held back by John McCain by being forced to share the spotlight. She's held back by his long, nearly uneventful service in Washington. She's held back because in every speech she gives, she has to spend more time trying to promote McCain than she can promoting herself. I don't expect Sarah Palin to overtly step on McCain's toes too much in this campaign, but I do suspect she has at least one eye firmly looking toward her own political future. I also suspect that many Republicans are far more excited about the prospect of "Palin for President, 2012" than "McCain for 2008". "Palin, Palin, Palin", indeed.

Traveling Laptops

Finding the right travel friendly laptop is all about identifying what you'll be using your laptop for and finding the right balance of features at the right price. Some of the key areas you'll need to consider for your new laptop are weight, battery life, durability, and system specs. Weight is a no-brainer. Nobody wants to lug around a heavy brick of a laptop all day so most users in need of easing their burden should look for a laptop that weighs less than five pounds.

The amount of battery life you get out of your laptop is going to be driven primarily by the programs that you utilize. A laptop that boasts a 6hr battery life on a single charge is going to perform quite differently if you're writing email versus if you're doing photo and video editing. The key takeaway here is that if you're purchasing a laptop to do anything beyond simple functions like web surfing and word processing, carefully consider the effect this will have on the advertised battery life of the laptop you're looking at.

Durability and weight tend to have an inverse relationship so if you're looking for a super light three pound laptop, be prepared to buy a heavily padded case to carry it in. That's not to say that lighter, laptops are always less durable, but consider the amount of wear and tear your laptop will be subjected to in your travels, and make sure you buy the most durable carrying case your budget will allow.

System specs covers a wide range of features for your laptop including processor speed, RAM, hard drive space, CD/DVD drive, and anything other system hardware that goes into making your laptop. Systems specs is going to drive all your other decision factors as extra components add weight (larger hard drives), utilize extra battery power (dedicated video cards), and can make your laptop more delicate (CD/DVD drives).
That being said, you need to make decisions based on how you're going to use your laptop. Check the recommended system specs on the software you use most frequently and make sure your laptop exceeds them. If you're looking to do music or video editing with your laptop, this may very well mean you'll have to sacrifice on weight and battery life as you will need a laptop with a big hard drive, lots of RAM, and a dedicated audio and video card. If you just need a laptop for basic documents, instant messaging and email, you can get away with an inexpensive processor, minimal RAM, and no extra frills

So now that you know a little bit more about how to shop for your new travel friendly laptop, here are five of the best on the market.

Sony Vaio VGN-SZ760NC

At a weight of 4lbs and only 1 inch thick, this Sony laptop is the perfect blend of power and mobility. Features include a 2.4 Ghz Dual Core processor, a dedicated video card, a 250 gigabyte hard drive, built in Bluetooth and much more. At around $1,650, this laptop is a road-warrior's dream.

Toshiba U405-S2854 Satellite

For the more budget conscious shopper still looking for a powerful travel laptop, this Toshiba weighs in at just less than 5 pounds with tons of great features like a 2ghz Dual Core processor, 3gb of RAM, a 320gb hard drive, a built-in webcam, and a multimedia card reader. At around $930, this laptop is a great choice for students.

HP 2133 Mini-Note Laptop

At a super light 2.8 lbs and 1 inch thick, the HP 2133 is perfect for casual web surfing, email, and word processing. The aluminum casing provides light yet sturdy protection for this little dynamo which boasts a 120gb hard drive, 2gb of RAM, and a built-in webcam.

Acer AOA110-1722

This Acer is a mobile internet device that allows wireless access to internet email, instant messaging, as well as built in productivity software thanks to OpenOffice. This Acer unit provides significant cost savings by foregoing a CD/DVD drive and a hard drive (it utilizes a Flash drive to provide storage). At $380.00, this laptop is a steal for the level of functionality it provides.

MacBook Air

At .75 inches thick and starting at 3lbs, you won't find a thinner laptop than the MacBook Air. This lightweight wonder is a powerhouse which can handle video editing and music as well as standard productivity software. You may sacrifice a bit of durability with the MacBook air, but at around $1,800, you will have the sleekest most portable laptop on the market today

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