Oh, one small thing: the Bleat ends on Friday. It will be replaced by the Bleat. All will be clear come Monday, but you might have to reset a bookmark here or there. I know I will. The devious result of all this behind-the-scenes skullduggery should be another book in a couple of years, possibly two. One’s a novel and one isn’t.

Consumer review: the Papermate “Eagle” pen. Advantages: comes in a pack of ten for a very reasonable price. More important, though, it looks cool. Anyone who works in an office experiences unavoidable pen migration – you put it in your back pocket, forget to leave it at the office, then stand back in stunned horror when you change into eveningwear and discover you have transported office property to your house. And it’s an ugly pen. It’s a blue Bic in a color you have come to loath, and you always find the caps knocking around the utility drawer. What reign of terror separated the caps from their bodies with such ruthless, Jacobin efficiency? You attempt to ban the pens on aesthetic grounds, but your spouse notes that it’s nice to have a few pens around, isn’t it. Because they come in handy. Now and then. So you go to Target and buy the cool Papermate Eagle pens.

Disadvantages: as if channeling the spirit of “Uncle Joe” from “Petticoat Junction,” they’re runnin’ a little slow. Takes a while to get them up off the porch. Simply put: the ink has trouble committing to the paper. The ink seems to have something to hide. Or perhaps it’s just shy. What, write, in front of the world and everything? So you get used to scribbling a squibble before you get down to writing the thing you want to write, and after a few days you realize you have not only incorporated the preparatory squibble into your writing, you’ve started to take out two pieces of paper when you need to make a note  - one to prime the pen, the other to actually write. You will reach a point where you pick up one pen, note that it doesn’t write, pick up a second, observe its hesitance to put down some ink, pick up a third from the drawer, discover that it, too, will not write on demand. Then you collect all the pens and throw them away and get out the Sharpie.

In all fairness, the Uniball Ultra also refused to write on demand.

Consumer review #2: a few days ago I noted, again, that my alarm clock played iPod tunes. Specifically, a custom-designed alarm I crafted to gently pull me from the deep waters of Lethe onto the rocky shore of morning. It was a Memorex radio. You know, the audiotape recording people. (If you’re wondering if I have an AMPEX can opener or a BASF coffee grinder or callus-grinder branded by a company known for making consumer-grade videotapes in the early nineties, the answer is no.) The brand name meant little – I appreciated the low simple styling. I did not appreciate the way the unit had a total stroke when I put the iPod into the cradle, and reset everything to blinking twelves. I took it back. I got another. It performed well for six months, then started to reset to blinking twelves again, as if it’s amateur night and it’s doing an impression of your parents’ microwave.

Then one day the very act of placing the iPod in the cradle shorted out every control. The time could not be set. The alarm could not be set. I consulted the manual, which said that the unit may be tired and shagged out after a long squawk. Nothing could revive it. I attempted to reset the chip by smashing it with my fist, hoping the psychic energy behind the blow traveled all the way to the executive who signed off on the cheap Chinese factory that produced the thing and shrugged with unconcern when confronted with a pdf re: the appalling mortality rate of the prototypes. We’re talking 100% failure on two units. I wanted to hit that thing so hard that the guts of everyone involved in the product had a sudden insistent sense of intestinal liquification.

I am not alone. End result: I will never buy another Memorex product. Not that it matters; I’m sure the person who headed the team has been demoted or spends his night in a bitter dank sweat blaming others, waiting for the hammer to fall; the quality-control people at the factory don’t care, because the factory changed its name from Shanghai Lucky Seven Export to Lucky Exports of Shanghai VII LTD, and now they’re making lead-based shunts for premature-baby incubators. Gah.

I take (G)Nat’s friend home on Mondays. On the way to her house she asked (G)Nat who she was going to vote for – Hillary or Obama? (G)Nat was in a silly mood, and had been responding to all conversational forays with the word “tuna” or some variation, replied President Tuna. I had a vision of Star-Kist Charlie taking the podium to announce a new plan to hunt down that mermaid from the Chicken of the Sea label and sue her for discrimination. He’d applied to them too. Of course he did. It would be ridiculous to think Charlie just went after Star-Kist. I’d be surprised if he didn’t play one off the other at some point.

I never thought of this before, but it seemed odd for a tuna brand to be star-kissed, since it is unlikely starlight would penetrate to the depths described in the commercials.

“I’m going to vote for President Hillary,” (G)Nat said when we got home. I asked her why.

“Because she is a woman and she seems like a good leader.”

Well, let’s just Godwin the hell out of this for grins.

“Would you vote for Hitler if he was a woman?”

She stopped and glared. DAD.

“I’m not saying she’s anything like Hitler," I said. "She’s not at all. But would you vote for someone just because they were a woman?”

And she seems like a good leader I said. Hitler was not a good leader.”

I considered noting that Hitler was an effective shaper of public opinion as well, but decided to ask her what made a good leader.

“Deciding the best things for people.”

We had a little talk about taxes, and she was surprised to find that the President and the Congresses can just take your money. “That’s wrong.”

Sigh. Careful. This is civics, not brainwashing.

“No, it’s not wrong. We all agree to pay taxes for things we need. We don’t always agree on how much to pay, or what to spend them on. But if they take too much, then we can’t go to Disneyworld.”

Okay, now it was brainwashing. Her eyes grew wide. “I vote for Obama.”

“He might raise taxes, too.”

She looked bereft: “who else is there then?”

Welcome to the club, child. Later we had a discussion about parties, and how they’re like teams. Both want the best for people but they have different ideas about how to do it. Like sports, fair play counts, and everyone shakes hands after the game is over.

It reminded me of this graphic I saw somewhere:

It’s interesting that personal freedom and economic freedom are seen as competing values. You could argue that economic freedom makes personal freedom possible. Go ahead; I won’t stop you. It seems to set up a false dichotomy: if your economic life is completely controlled by the state but you can film yourself sawing wombats in a legal brothel with your six wives watching, you’re personally free. Even if 95% of your income has been taken out of your clumsy little hands and placed in general public trust.

It's super-extra fab Tuesday - I'll be on Hugh Hewitt's show and the XM Potus channel now and then, yammering on and on and on until I foam at the mouth and fall over backwards.

New comic, right here. See you at buzz.mn!