Notes On The Care And Feeding Of Teenaged Boys In The Wild

In his natural habitat, the teenaged boy is normally a sullen, yet somehow docile creature. He seems bent on quietly sleeping away as much free time as possible.

When spotted outside his designated sleeping area, sometimes known as the Pit of Despair or the Garbage Dump, the teenaged boy typically is attempting to sulk through the larger familial environment, speaking only when forced to do so, interacting to the least extent possible by a physical being, and foraging for food. It is this latter activity, consuming almost as much time as the teenaged boys’ attempt to sleep, which takes up the most time during the day.

It is thought by many, this author most definitely included, that teenaged boys have a hollow leg for storage of foraged foodstuffs. While not evident in most contemporary medical imaging technology, there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy.

Don’t test me on this. I mean it!

So, yes. The teenaged boy can use his hollow leg (It is there! It is!) for the majority of his time as a teen. Over time, the hollow space gradually withers away, becoming a vestigial, nearly invisible line between several leg muscles.

This, however, is what happens in the teenaged boys’ natural habitat. Despite their best intentions, family members will astonishingly forget previous experiences with forcing a teenaged boy out of this natural environment and into new, strange places which work against his natural tendencies. In other words, teenaged boys do, on occasion, get taken on vacation.

Often it is not a smooth week during the vacation time.

Some parental units will expect the teenaged boy to show excitement at the prospect of traveling to an exotic destination, there to interact with people different than himself, eat unfamiliar foods and attempt to sleep in beds that do not have mattresses conformed to his shape. These parental units are often the most disappointed following the paying of the cost of travel and accommodation for the vacation.

These parents, as many prefer to be called, face further disappointment if they expect the sullen teenaged boy to rise early, be excited and friendly, then go out and enrich themselves with cultural activities not available in its home range.

The typical teenaged boy will face the prospect of cultural enrichment with all the excitement and anticipation a normal person would have for a blunt-edge, sledhammer-assisted leg amputation.

While the idea of strange food normally is met with loud and repeated calls of, “This stinks! I hate this stuff! Why can’t I have a cheeseburger? Everybody hates me. I’m going to my room. Oh, wait. That’s right. I can’t go to my room, can I? Fine. I’ll just sit here and starve to death in front of you.”

Interestingly, at least interestingly to those not intimately involved, these exact words are repeated on an average of every five minutes while teenaged boys and parental units are sitting in a restaurant. Which is much more persistence than showcased by teenaged boys when forced to do, say, homework.

The frustration level of the parental unit will only increase when the teenaged boy decides that he will continue sleeping as late as he wants, no matter the distraction nor the din of people getting ready around him.However, the author of this paper believes he has come up with a method that could be useful to parental units forced to bring a teenaged boy outside of his natural habitat.

For starters, it is recommended that parental units adjust their expectations before leaving for the trip. Understand that teenaged boys have, at least in front of their parents, one facial expression that seems to be used the majority of the time. Teenaged boys spend a lot of time practicing that expression. However, this author has it on good authority, that actual human emotions do percolate beneath that stone-faced exterior.

Which is good, really, because you’d never know it to simply go by the exterior.

So, once parental units understand that smiling is a thing of the past and the future, but not the present, for teenaged boys, it enables them to move forward with their plans without suffering disappointment, frustration or anger. At least about the lack of a smile.

On a recent trip with his own teenaged boy, this author discovered what seemed to be the key to a successful temporary transplantation of a teenaged boy to a new environment. That key being disinterest. In this case, the author’s own.

Many parental units will pack a vacation chock full of wonderful events, fantastic sites and educational exhibits designed for the teenaged boy to enjoy and find elucidation. When these activities are met with surface disinterest by the teenaged boy, parents suffer.

The key, this author has found, is to use that disinterest to the parents’ advantage. While the teenaged boy insists on sleeping very late indeed, it is possible for the parents to go out into the new environment and seek out those stimuli which he or she enjoys and do so without the constant drag of a sullen teenaged boy.

Then, at a time agreed upon earlier, the parents simply return to the temporary sleeping territory of the teenaged boy and wake him up. As is the case with most wild animals, the first thing that should be done upon waking the teenaged boy is to feed him. This should take place as soon as possible.

Having been out enjoying themselves earlier in the morning, the parents will more easily have found a place that serves food they like and that still serves a breakfast-ish food for the teenaged boy. Once the food has been absorbed and the teenaged boy begins to reapproach what might, on a stretch, be called civility, then it’s time for the joint activity.

This author found that having one activity, outside of meals, per day to perform with the teenaged boy worked out just about right. Mostly because this author made sure there was another activity in the neighborhood of the first. That way, when the first activity was finished, it could be said with the appropriate degree of surprise and incredulity, “Oh, look. It turns out that (fill in the blank of another activity, this one less attractive to the teenaged boy) is right near here. Why don’t we just head over there for a couple of minutes? Wow. Isn’t this lucky?”

Admittedly, the author’s teenaged boy began to look at the author semi-suspiciously after the author repeated the above verbatim four days in a row, but it still had its desired effect. However, this could be something to watch out for on other vacations.

Finally, after the exhausting day’s events (exhausting to a teenager because it normally wouldn’t involve more sleeping or television) are finished, it is time for the next important step.

Once more feeding the teenaged boy. As this normally would be the dinner meal time, it is best to eat at a restaurant that is more filling for the parents. That way, when the teenaged boy begins the evening feeding frenzy a few hours later and begins turning every adult-aged stomach in the vicinity, the parents already will have eaten and can simply put in the earplugs purchased for just this purpose and turn away for the duration.

Oddly, this author found that being earplugged and facing away from his teenaged boy made for a remarkably enjoyable reading experience. As long as the author kept his eyes focused away from the carnage happening near the previously purchased snack foods.

It is hoped that this author’s travails with his teenaged boy can help other parents survive any temporary relocation of their own teenaged boy.

First published: On Charlotte Parent website.

April 14, 2015 8:33 am
Written by: Richard E.D. Jones

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In Memoriam: Sir Terry Pratchett

The sun is a little less brighter today. The sky a little less blue. The spring blooms a little more drab. Sir Terry Pratchett is dead.
At age 66, Sir Terry died yesterday after a long battle against early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Despite the debilitating dementia, Sir Sir Terry PratchettTerry managed to continue writing books, each one of them filled with the righteous anger and sparkling wit that first drew him to the attention of his adoring reading public all those many decades ago.This man quite literally changed for the better how I view the world. I have him to thank for my ability to look at the most mundane thing and possibly find something magic within. His sense of humor is so deeply intertwined with my own, I’m surprised when I find something funny and realize he didn’t actually produce it. He was strong, friendly, supportive, angry at all the right people and causes, loving and more productive than almost any writer alive.

I realize that not many of you might know of Sir Terry, but he was, in my opinion, the finest English-language satirist of all time. His crowning achievement was the 40-books-full Discworld braid. It wasn’t a series, because the books weren’t necessarily designed to be read in any certain order. But they weren’t all stand-alone books either as each one used characters from other books. It was like life: Messy, busy and chock full of more amazing things than most people could find with both hands, a map and a GPS.

There are times in life when people must know when not to let go. Balloons are designed to teach small children this.

On the surface, the Discworld looked a lot like pre-industrial England, had a social structure of about the same, with lords and ladies and serfs and all, and resembled just about every single fantasy novel that had ever been written prior to Sir Terry beginning his work. You see, he enjoyed nothing more than taking the tropes and cliches of fantasy literature and subjecting them to the burning eye of daylight. He liked to rip away the cover of darkness, find the pomposity lurking underneath the silliness, and begin poking at it with very large, pointed sticks.

It was several books in to his Discworld braid that Sir Terry began to realize that the Discworld didn’t have to content itself with skewering only fantasy tropes, when there were so many cliches, so many horrible wardrobe choices, so many appalling people right outside his window that deserved to be finely skewered and roasted over the slow-burning coals of satire.

And it all started with the Discworld. A flat disc or a world, the round Discworld rested atop four gigantic elephants, which, in turn, stood astride a humongous turtle that swam through the depths of space. As silly as that seems, it once was one of the theories of what the actual Earth actually looked like. I like it much better when it’s serving as home to the characters that made these books come alive.

I have no use for people who have learned the limits of the possible.

There was a wizzard (spelled correctly. If you don’t believe me, just look at the man’s pointy hat.) who couldn’t do magic because one of the eight great spells that created the universe has set up camp inside his head and is blocking all lesser spells from getting in.

A clothing wardrobe named Luggage, with hundreds of horrible little legs, a snapping lid with a penchant for closing on the fingers (and toes and entire arms or legs) of the unwary, and a surprisingly lively love life for something that’s supposed to follow its owner around and give out fresh clothing.

A young girl who saves her brother and single-cast-iron-pandedly holds off an invasion of faeries. Although she did have a little help from a tribe of loud, unruly, frequently drunk, frequently cursing blue men of incredible strength. And each of them less than two inches tall.

And, of course, DEATH. The personification of death on the Discworld looked astonishingly like our idea of death: skull face, bony fingers, long black robe, large scythe. All the trimmings. But DEATH had an unusual fondness for the humans of Discworld, which, sadly, often didn’t turn out all that well.

The truth may be out there, but the lies are inside your head.
And then there was the tribe of mice who became intelligent and learned to talk once they ate garbage from the dump out back of the Unseen University, the Discworld’s preeminent school of magic. The mice would travel from town to town, breaking into homes and messing up the place. In each town, though, a young boy and cat would appear and offer to chase the mice away for a payment. Once the job was finished, the boy and the cat, who, after a delicious encounter with one of the mice, suddenly found himself able to speak and think and was far less hungry, would meet up with the mice and split the loot.

As much as I loved Sir Terry and his work, as much joy and wonder and wisdom and laughter as I found within the pages of his books, I wouldn’t be writing about him here if it weren’t for one thing. Sir Terry created some of the most amazing young reader books ever written.

The Wee Free Men (starring the aforesaid blue men) and The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents (starring the aforesaid intelligent mice, intelligent cat and a boy) were a revelation when I read them out loud.

See, when the Spawn of Our Loins were young, I used to sit with them for an hour every night and read to them from whatever book caught my eye or theirs. I would read them out loud, often using outrageous (and outrageously bad) accents. But it was with these two books that I really hit my stride. We all laughed so hard we had to stop and catch our breath nearly every page.

I urge you to please, if you have youngish children, or even kids who just love a good read, go out and get copies of these books right now. I’m frequently asked for recommendations for kids to read. No matter the gender of the child, I will recommend these books by Sir Terry and I’ve never heard one complaint, only thank you and please tell me there are more.The world is a better place for Sir Terry’s having been in it, and a poor one for him having left. But he did leave behind a legacy of laughter and love and wisdom that will stand the test of time and be delighting readers for centuries to come.

And you can get in on the ground floor of that. Go buy one of his books. Read it. Laugh and you can thank me later.

So much universe, and so little time.

March 13, 2015 8:21 am
Written by: Richard E.D. Jones


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Dude Review: HighView iPad Hangers

Written by: Richard E.D. Jones
Listed in: Charlotte Parent Stay-at-Home Dudes

Sofia Rodriguez was traveling on an airplane and barely made it through an appalling First-World Problem.But that’s not why I’m talking about her here. And it’s not what happened directly after. You see, Sofia decided to use the solution to her First-World Problem to work on solving a Real-World Problem. And that’s important. Read on to find out more.A First-World Problem, for those of you who don’t know, is something that could only go wrong for people who have more money than the vast majority of people throughout the world. Not being able to find the charging cord for my iPhone 6 Plus. . . That’s a First-World Problem. Not having enough to eat. . . That’s a Real-World problem.

So, Sofia was having a real First-World Problem.

“I was on a flight, watching a movie on my iPad when I realized how uncomfortable I was,” she told me in an exclusive e-mail question and answer. “There was no way to watch my movie, be comfortable, and have space on my tray table for food or drinks.”

Yeah. A real First-World Problem. The thing of it is, though, instead of whining about it and complaining on Twitter or Facebook, Sofia decided to do something about it.

“I decided to create a solution. After several months of sketching, designing, and trying out different options, the HighView iPad hanger was born!”

Following a successful Kickstarter campaign that was funded in October, Sofia started up her own company selling the HighView iPad hangers to whoever would buy one.

Which, you know, good and all.

Before we get much further, I do want to say that I’ve spent some time with the HighView iPad hanger and thought it was a really nice solution to the problem of how to use an iPad and still have use of your hands and feet. (Feet, because I’m sure some of my readers more closely resemble chimpanzees than to the rest of you.) The hanger comes in all different sizes, one for every type of iPad. You slip it into the hanger and then, using the straps that come with it, you (hang on, this is the brilliant part) hang it on something.

That way, you get to watch whatever is on the iPad while also filing your nails, or eating or, and this is the case of the young Spawn on whom I tested my HighView, doing unspeakable things with a broken pencil and nasal excreta. While I can’t say I approved overmuch about the activities themselves, we both thought the HighView did an admirable job of making sure the iPad stayed watchable. It stayed snugly attached and out of the way. Really, it was all you could ask for in something like this.

I’d highly recommend this to dudes who do a lot of driving in the family mini-van with young spawn in the backseat, screaming for entertainment that just isn’t coming unless you pull over to the side of the road, stop, hop out of the car and suffer a complete nervous breakdown from all the screaming, with a breakdown consisting of break dancing, twitching like St. Vitus and spewing ball lightning from your ears. Well, come one. No doubt about it: That’s entertainment.

I’m going to suggest, however, that having a HighView iPad hanger on hand to hold the all-knowing source of Spawn-ish entertainment might be better for your long-term electability prospects. I do highly recommend it. I also need to point out that Sofia sent me one for my iPad Mini for free in return for a review. This isn’t that review. That review is going up on Amazon.

This — what you’re reading right now — is because of what I found out while talking to Sofia about the product.

Sofia, being a native of Guatemala, knew first hand the grinding poverty experienced by many living there. Things that we here in America take for granted — access to food that won’t kill us as well as access to water that also has no designs on our lives — isn’t available to large numbers of rural Guatemalans.

“I believe education is very important to end poverty, and, unfortunately, one of the main reasons why Guatemalan children miss school is due to drinking unclean water,” she said. “These water-borne diseases can also create a strain on a family’s finances. By providing clean water to children, we are able to help them stay healthy and in school.”

The question remained, though: How to address the issue of providing clean water to children in need? Which was when Sofia had her epiphany. She decided throw money from her solution to the First-World iPad problem at it.

HighView partnered with Ecofiltro, a Guatemalan company with designs on providing safe drinking water to more than 1 million rural Guatemalans by 2020, to give a month’s free water to a class of school children with the purchase of every HighView iPad hanger.
Ecofiltro’s business model consists of selling water filters to rural villages and then having the new owners charging a small amount to receive the safe, filtered drinking water. It’s basically the same as the city pumping water into your home, for which you’re charged, only it’s out in rural Guatemala, it isn’t pumped into your home (yet) and means the difference between life and death.

When someone buys a hanger from HighView, the company donates enough money to Ecofiltro to pay for one month’s free water at schools in the rural areas of the country.

“I’ve always admired companies that are able to be profitable and also give back to individuals or communities that are less fortunate,” Sofia said. “An example of such a company is Toms. We decided to follow their model which is One for One. In our case, it’s One HighView for One month of clean water to Guatemalan children in need.”

So, yeah, I’m a big fan of Sofia and HighView. I love the idea of socially responsible corporations making money for themselves, but also making sure to spread some of the wealth around to those less fortunate.

If you’re looking for something to keep the Backseat Spawn busy and — oh, please, FSM — quiet, give the HighView iPad hanger a try. Of course, you’ll need to have your own iPad, but that shouldn’t be a problem.

Unless you’re suffering from out-of-date-iPad blues, which is, really, sort of a definition of a First-World Problem.

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