Cat: Modest Cheating

☣ The good news is that I’m only coughing once in a while and it’s productive. On the other hand my throat is as sore as a left-handed penmanship student. Every time I cough, it is a painful ordeal.

Today I’m prepping for my usual San Francisco trip tomorrow, with the added bonus visit to my GP’s office to see what is going on with my chronic respiratory conditions.

In video game binge news, I’m back to playing Saints Row IV. When I stopped last time, it was due to an annoying visual effect in the game called glitching. Objects in the world would pixilate out of focus and back in (as a reminder that The Matrix Has You). But glitches would happen so often that it was continuous and distracting. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

Fortunately, the game features a cheat that turns it off (noglitchcity). Unfortunately, once I use a cheat, it flags the game which disallows completion of certain aspects (such as steam achievements). Happily, someone has long since made a mod of the game that allows for cheats (any cheat) to be used without activating the flag.

In the SR4 community, noglitchcity is, by far, the most commonly used cheat in the game, and of those players who have accessed the mod, most have used it specifically to turn off this one stupid effect.

Cheating in video games often goes this way.

I’m an old veteran cheater, as I’ve implied in the past, often to either circumvent annoying elements or bypass / abridge tedious sequences, and otherwise to, as the DOOM developers advised in 1993 extract all the enjoyment I can out of the product.

I have encountered games that are almost completely unplayable, but can be massaged into a tolerable experience, which I’d do just to experience certain brilliant moments. I’ve also encountered games that are decent to outright grand, unnecessarily tedious boss monster (e.g. say a boss that requires planet-crushing damage to topple them). Flagrant cheating is in these cases, the continuation of play by other means. It’s a tool by which I can choose to not give up on a game.

Sometimes it’s a tool to turn a decent game into an amazing game. I’ve had a few of those.

Today, cheating turns off an annoying effect, and SR4 is pretty great after that.


☣ I had thought that I’d been suffering from the same allergy season that everyone else has been in northern California. The news has reported some immense superblooms, in which every plant and tree imaginable has been pumping a bumper crop of pollen into the air, and even those who aren’t already sensitive to it are experiencing heavy symptoms.

This is kicking my ass. I’m now continuously fatigued (it doesn’t help that I hack and cough myself to sleep). and my sinuses are puffy with histamine. The difference is that it’s goopy snot rather than fluid snot, which indicates it’s full of alien particles. Oh and I’ve been getting orange phlegm again, which I realize now is histamine lightly seasoned with blood, for color.

Colds have been starting in my nose before worming down into my throat and lungs. This started in my lungs and sinuses and I hacked and hawked and sneezed until everything inside my head and throat are sore.

I can’t tell what’s going on, and I’ve made a doctor’s appointment to ask WTF. Again, this is either allergies curb-stomping my face, or my immunity system is compromised as indicated by the frequency with which I catch cold.

Building Too High

I still say a church steeple with a lightning rod on top shows a lack of confidence, so says author and mediaman Doug McLeod (not to be confused with bluesman Doug MacLeod).

Traditionally, lightning was thought to be work of the divine, and the proper protocol was for the priest to climb the tower and ring the bell as vehemently as he could for the duration of the storm. According to the logic, the peels would appease any lightning-slinging deities listening.

It didn’t work at all. Lightning strike was so common a cause-of-death for parish priests that laws had to be passed forbidding bell-ringing during thunderstorms. The lightning would still topple steeples well into the twentieth century, and in modern times, grounded lighting pathways running up to the highest point (with a replaceable conductive tip) are intrinsic to steeple design codes.

Cut to the this year: The Ark Encounter themepark, allegedly a full-scale replica of Noah’s Ark was opened slightly less than a year ago (2016-07-07) by Ken Ham and the organization Answers In Genesis. Mr. Ham and AiG are on a mission to teach a literal (non-scholarly) interpretation of the Old Testament, featuring talking snakes, mass incest and, regarding the ark / flood story, global genocide by an angry god. (To be fair, biologists, autoclave their petri dishes without shame every day.)

The Ark Encounter features ambiguously-featured moderately-tanned Israelites, short-necked giraffes and scaly (not feathery) dinosaurs. It’s had about same number of construction complications and corruption / graft scandals and difficulties with Kentucky regulatory agencies one would expect from any other large scale contractual project. It’s big and wood and, actually, no small achievement.

What caught my interest, though, is Mr. Ham’s interest in creating a theme-park replica of the Tower of Babel. The tower was a building so tall that humans could touch the Heavens. Mind you, Ham and the AiG organization regard a literal interpretation of the biblical narrative in their statement of faith.

That means they (allegedly) really believe God was a bit irate about the last time humans tried to build one.

God regarded King Nimrod’s Tower construction project an act of hubris and defiance of the divine. It really pissed Him off. In response, God scattered the engineers, architects and construction labor unions asunder to the corners of the Earth, giving each their own language and culture.

I suspect it was at this time (extrapolating from the same mythology), that God stirred human hearts that each of our ethnic groups would hate the others with a passion, so that Germans couldn’t stand Austrians or Prussians or Franks, and vice versa. All human groups regarded themselves as the real people who believed the the true faith. Everyone else are petty barbarians who construct false idols to false gods. Heretics! Infidels! Philistines!

And He made everyone hate the Jews extra hard to make them tough-as-nails. But I digress.

So how does Ken Ham think building another Tower of Babel is a good idea? That smacks of the same hubris that pissed off God before.

It’s possible that Ken Ham is not immune to rationality and the logic of inductive evidence. Existing skyscrapers suggest that height alone is not the matter, though Ham might want to find out what is.

It’s interesting to me the Burj Kalifa in Dubai now exceeds even the height of Sauron’s tower Barad-dûr, which was partly supported by his own life energy. Sauron’s Eye, at the top of Barad-dûr is about two-thousand feet, according to most Middle Earth scholars. Though some like to double that height, now that two-thousand is no longer a wondrous height. Current projects in the design phase will even dwarf tallest estimations of Sauron’s tower. But they’re not actually built yet.

And then we’ve landed humans on the moon. If that’s not touching the Heavens by transcending altitude, I don’t know what is.

Considering the degree to which Ken Ham has clung to literalist arguments in the face of evidence before, none of this should convince him a new Tower of Babel is a good idea.

Mr. Ham may find he’s not as literalist as he thought.

Or rather, I suspect, it is the allure of sweet, sweet Kentucky-tourist lucre that tempts him to dig too greedily and too deep.

Your Wish…

In American Gods S01E03, Head Full of Snow, a smiling Omani salesman comes to an appointment at a business office. His appointed time comes and goes. He waits and waits. Eventually the day has passed and he is still waiting for this unseen client. The secretary will not reschedule for him insisting a new appointment has to be scheduled by phone.

Defeated, dejected and in the rain, the Omani salesman catches a cab home. The cab driver is also middle eastern, though his nationality is not clear. Though conversation, the Omani discovers the cabbie is in fact an ifrit who also struggles in the United States to eek out a living. Among the ifrit’s grievances of American life is the stereotypes.

Here they think we just grant wishes, the cabbie laments. I don’t grant wishes.

Hours later, the Omani and the Ifrit have decided on a trade, the Ifrit takes the wares where the Omani takes the cab license. I don’t grant wishes, the Omani thinks ironically. He had sought to be delivered from an obstreperous sales gig only to have a stable taxi-cab job fall into his hands. The Ifrit, in his case, granted wishes after all.

Part and Parcel of the Whole Genie Gig

In the original One Thousand and One Nights, there was nothing formal about genies and wishes.

As legends of Araby tell, King Solomon was a bit of a sorcerer. No, the sorcerer. King Solomon is what would happen if Jafar (Aladdin, 1992) didn’t fall for the thief’s wiles at the end of the movie, and stayed high Sultan and the Most Powerful Sorcerer In the World all rolled into one. And Solomon was famously wise as well.

When Solomon wasn’t kinging, he had a full time hobby capturing jinns and ifrit (and sometimes angels!) and caging them in bottles or binding them to objects. When Solomon needed additional labor for public works, he turned to his captives to get the job done.

Time passed, as, eventually, did Solomon. And his superfluous collection of jinn-keeping bottles and trinkets (still occupied) trickled out to his heirs, and as fate and the chaos of time would have it, scattered asunder throughout the world.

The most famous Jinn today is, of course the Genie of the Lamp in the story of Aladdin. The original Aladdin was a thief in China, skilled enough to determine the coins in his hand by their weight. Like thieves by trade, Aladdin picked pockets and stole from wealthy merchants in the market. His mother, also a career thief, was getting on in years and he would provide for her as he could. Aladdin came across the magic lamp by accident, either as an unwitting courier hired by a sorcerer, or as a passing cutpurse who lifted a courier’s delivery. (Stories like these are fraught with variations.) Neither thief nor courier were aware of the nature of the parcel until Aladdin would later tried to give the tarnished lamp a polish.

The Genie of the Lamp was one of Solomon’s many victims. The Solomon sorcerer-king not only captured him but burned glyphs of obedience onto his face, and then tethered him to the lamp. For a Jinn, he was neither vindictive nor kindly, but was nonetheless compelled to obey whoever possessed the lamp.* And there was no clear-cut means of escape. His imprisonment and servitude were, as far as Solomon or the story was concerned, for all eternity.

Curiously, Aladdin also had a second genie, that of the Ring, who is poetically forgotten in modern versions. He, too who was also bound to obey whoever held his totem. The Genie of the Ring was gentler than the Genie of the lamp, and less powerful. As such he wasn’t noticed as often, and when Aladdin was captured and the lamp seized, his jailers would still leave him the ring.

With retellings and translations, the story of Aladdin got westernized. Hollywood versions suggest captivity and service are intrinsic to jinn. Jinn come with a lamp or bottle the way humans come with a navel. And jinn grant formalized wishes: They’re limited in number; the lamp-bearer has to specifically say I wish, and can inadvertently activate a wish by haphazardly uttering the phrase. Sometimes the jinn is obligated to take the phrasing literally, and subvert the intent.

Even the X-files — a series that that often acknowledges the origins and esoterics of legends — decided to run with a westernized wish-granting genie.

So what happened?

I work for Señor Psychopath now.

Aladdin’s genies are particularly cooperative and helpful (and it doesn’t hurt that Aladdin calls on them with fairly noble intentions). Many Most of the rest are not so eager to assist, and all this formalized wishing evolves partly from their stories.

Not all of Solomon’s victims were so completely fettered. (Also, it is not clear that Solomon was the only guy in the jinn-bottling business.) Some were merely stuffed into vessels and jars. Break one or open one up, and you’d have a jinn free to do what he pleased. Often enough, the freed captive would be content enough to flee. Other times the story ended with a dead beachcomber and a rampaging ifrit. Still, some would stop and say Hey, thanks for bailing me out. You need anything before I go?

Those that were were bound to obedience were often still still peeved about it, and sought any opportunity by which to spoil requests for aid. (One tale tells of a merchant who called on an ifrit to deliver his caravan from a firey sandstorm. Dutifully, the ifrit carried the whole company, camels and wagons and all to Antarctica.) Then there were those willing to serve, but fell into the hands of mortals too greedy, who demanded wealth and kingdoms and magical might. Those stories also tended to end poorly. Really, when meddling with bound Jinns, tragedy was poised to strike unless both parties were willing to be fair and reasonable.

Western bards and minstrels looked at this dynamic of mortals begging boons from magical captured (often ill-disposed) creatures and found it easy to compare to similar shenanigans by fairies.

Fairy deals came in two flavors:

The Hasty Bargain: Look, that dragon is burning your village down. Promise me the first thing your wife shows you when you get home (hint: it’s not a new sweater) and I’ll help you beat the dragon.

The Trapper’s Boon: Oh dear, you caught me, a magical talking fish! Free me, and I shall grant you a wish.

Again, these tales tended to be cautionary not to get too greedy for money or power. Western feudal culture was particularly sensitive about desires to change station. A person’s social status was thought to be fixed and determined by fate (or divine providence), and that a peasant who sought to be king could upset the grand order and cause the earth and sky to tilt on on their axes (seriously, as per disaster, meaning bad star).

So important safety tip when bargaining with fairies: Bumper crop this year–good! Mend my ox’s leg–excellent! Fix up my boat–AOK! Make me lord–bad! I want a kingdom to rule–Too much! Make me rich beyond my dreams–Very dangerous!

So the transition from generic unearthly servant to formalized wish-granter likely was a western interpretation. And yet, jinn from the east were not the only creatures who were so transformed by time and reinterpretation.

The Most Powerful Being On Earth

Long ago in the early middle ages, we had our own infernal servants who could be summoned and bound to duty by practitioners of the dark arts. Summoners, demonologists and disgruntled scholars would pull demons straight from the charnel depths of Hell. They’d then reshape these mind-warping monstrosities into presentable minions to follow them around, run their errands and call them master.

In time, stories of summoned Hellions faded in exchange for one-shot transactions with The Dark One, himself. Those who dared would make ever-regrettable Faustian deals with Old Scratch, usually a modicum of power in exchange for the an immortal soul. (Clever wizards realized it didn’t necessarily have to be their own soul.)

Some scholars regard jinn as the same thing as demons, or at least sharing some amount of cross section. Debates rage on as to whether or not both groups are intrinsically evil. (Evil is, as always, a matter of perspective. Great Satan probably wears seatbelts, loves His children and is happy to choose eco-friendly renewable fuels over coal and fossil fuels when He can, but He has declared eternal war on humanity and seeks to destroy all of us to the last infant. On the other hand, as the post-modern age progresses He seems to either be distracted or at least not trying very hard.)

Still, both tropes as literary devices do share related lessons. The Faustian deal represents the temptation to resort to extremism when desperate (theft, murder, arson…) where begging a boon from a jinn represents the temptation to demand too much, to be too greedy for wealth or power. Like much with Jinns and devils, there’s a lot of cross section.

To be fair, this may not necessarily indicate a common lesson but a shift from descriptive stories to prescriptive ones. The intent is less to describe the world as it works, and more to use literary device to convey moral lessons.

Still, this isn’t the end of the story for wishes and boons. In the real world, we speak of such things in terms of debt and obligations, and these lessons are applicable to creditors meek and mighty. But this is fodder for another time.

* The Genie of the Lamp was also not powerful enough to actually turn Aladdin into a prince. (That involves hooking him up with a principality, a considerable estate like Monaco or Lichtenstein.) But he could dress Aladdin up as one, and help him pass off as royalty. The Genie in the Disney version still can’t (or just doesn’t) set Aladdin up with a proper province despite his Phenomenal Cosmic Powers. And yet Genie is perfectly capable of helping Jafar usurp the sultanate of Agrabah. It’s an inconsistency that belies the story’s origins and intent.

Cat: Context and Editing

It’s time again to write about why I haven’t been writing much.

Other than being particularly anxious / depressed / affected by stressors I don’t recognize, I don’t have much in the way of excuses about why I haven’t been writing. When I think about it, the blame rests on the difficulty and tedium of context and editing.

I actually have a number of topics on which I’ve written this week. They include:

Regarding Recent News

No love was lost for James Comey from me, for several reasons which seem to be lost or ignored or not understood by our legislators. We need to remember that just because he’s a jerk with more integrity than Trump (a rather low bar) he’s still a jerk. Also, it’s a very G.R.R.Martinian trope for Comey’s discharge to be less a satisfying comeuppance and more an event that unpins more proverbial gears to spin freely, thus upending the DC arena further.

When elected officials burn spies for reasons other than saving lives, it’s a personal peeve of mine, what is a product of growing up during the Cold War and wanting, as a kid, to be a spy, myself. I should cover what it is to burn a spy and why I was sorely outraged when George W. Bush burned Valerie Plame as a political reprisal against her husband. And I’m pissed off that Trump probably endangered allied spies when he blabbed high-value intel to the Russian diplomats, and was doing so just to brag. Trump may not know and may not care how sources of intel can be inferred, and how that might compromise their identities and possibly their lives. Not that I wasn’t already disgusted and livid about Trump. It wasn’t even our spy to burn.

Of course everything is recorded in the White House (and around the President). This isn’t a matter of paranoia (as it was with Nixon) but (among other uses) posterity. Everything that happens in the White House, or with the President of the United States is relevant to US history, by definition. When an interviewer’s recording device was discovered to have failed mid-session with Obama, White House staff just arranged for a transcription to be forwarded to him. We want everything in the White House recorded so that our grandkids can follow without guessing what happened during each administration. The benefits of knowing all that is said when and where far outweigh the liability of those recordings being subpoenaed. Of course, that means that Trump does have recordings of meetings with Comey, and those probably will be seized for the Russian ties investigation. Unless he erases them.

I think the recent WannaCry ransomware epidemic may prove ultimately to be a good thing, a wake-up call to our agencies and tech industry of how vulnerable to hacking we’ve let ourselves become. The NSA’s primary roll was supposed to keep communication lines secure for US interests, but for years now they’ve stopped reporting system exploits, instead keeping them for their own infiltration efforts. The Shadow Brokers have hacked the NSA before, and considering our agencies’ lackadaisical attitudes towards securing their own systems, it probably won’t be the last. This is to say not only is the NSA arsenal of exploits vulnerable to hacks, but so is that immense database of everyone’s data that they’re sucking up. Even if you keep your cheesecake photos and dick-pics secure, the NSA isn’t being so diligent with its copies. Network security is a matter to be taken seriously. WannaCry demonstrates this. And we should start taking it seriously before tankers start capsizing or planes start falling out of the sky.

Regarding Personal Events

My current Terraria world ran out of chests. Each chest is not just an object but also a list of objects stowed in them, and that database is one-thousand chests long. Recently it stopped letting me place them. But I have an extensive tunnel network which is liberally seasoned with encampments, each featuring chests in which I dumped excess gathered stuff. Maybe between those and the chests that come scattered throughout the map, I reached a thousand chests after all.

The 60s were a time of paranoid hippies. We dismissed them for their reefer habits and crazy theories around aliens, HAARP and Stargate. But they also had crazy theories about the rising police state, the surveillance state and the consolidation of power within the military-industrial complex, about all of which they were spot on. In the aughts, we realized we owed those hippies an apology, and about then was when I realized I sounded like a cannibis-paranoid hippy myself when I tried to warn friends and family about how dangerous our nation could quickly devolve in an authoritarian regime. And it’s curious how, even when the evidence is plain as day, and can be pointed to on the internet, people are still reticent to believe me.

I still have more to say about Redshirts and Dispatcher part of an ongoing Scalzi reading binge.

Each of these could be in itself an essay (or three!), and I’ve written plenty of copy about them (and a few more related topics). But then I have to add context, which is to say, explain enough of the base topics in common enough terms that someone who is not an enthusiast or a participant in that field could still understand what I’m talking about.

And then, I invariably discover after the fact, that much of it is incoherent. Some of it is just plain gibberish. Word salad. That’s not counting mere typos and grammatical errors (which are tedious but easy to correct). No, sometimes I’ll have to decypher whatever it was I was trying to say, and then rephrase it so that it actually means that.

And these efforts are a lot of work. Work that has surpassed my volition this week.

Part of the problem is the fatigue of trying to keep current with the chaos oozing from the trump administration. This same fatigue is hitting journalists and activists as well. All the current Trump news evolves throughout the day, sometimes changing by the minute. And it’s exhausting trying to keep up. I was much better during lent, just checking every morning that the world hadn’t ended and getting on with my day.

And part of the problem is that my coping games are stalled. I got to the point in Subnautica where my progress in the game has caused frame-rate slowdown that interferes with play. And then there’s the aforementioned chest problem in Terraria which is requiring some additional intermediary steps.

So yeah, I’ve been stressed out and writing but not motivated enough to write up context and to edit.

And so I haven’t been posting so much.

Adults and Mermaids

Adulting, I’ve recently discovered, is a word. It’s been a word long enough to become a hashtag and a web comedy-drama series. Now, Washington Post editorialist Jessica Grose has publically admonished the word, rather its usage in common social-media. Ms. Grose finds this usage self-infantilizing and a rejection of personal maturity.*

I disagree. I think it is an acknowledgement of personal maturity.
To adult is to do those common, quotidian tasks that adults have to do in modern society. We rotate laundry. We write rent checks. We shop for groceries. We clean the damn bathroom.

The parlance in which I was raised described adulting two ways: chores, or crap that needs to be done at home. And errands or crap that involves going to some other place to do them. Usually errands were consolidated into single, multi-tasked trips.

Service Fees and Pestilence

Personally, I got a late start on my adulting. Sure, I rotated laundry in my teens. I was tasked with various household chores (all of which I sucked at, and all of which supplied my elders ammunition for disapproval) Rather I took to adulting when I left the sanctuary of parental homes and started paying rent on my own.

There’s nothing like real consequences to turn mere interest in responsibilities into desperate urgency.

In my experience, adulting doesn’t count when we’re doing it because parents ordered us to. Kid chores are for allowance or to avoid mom yelling at us. In contrast, failing to adult results in serious consequences: Days in the dark without power; hefty late fees; legal nastygrams; liens and lawsuits.

Then there are natural consequences: Waking up covered in bugs (leaving food in my bedroom to fester); food-borne botulism (eating leftovers without having properly stowed and refrigerated them), Tinea Cruris (failure to frequently change into clean underwear.)

My parents did their best to warn me of these dangers. I didn’t listen.

Having experienced these conditions first hand, I do concur with their warnings and eagerly pass on their advice to all who might hear: Yes, all these things are really that terrible and you should avoid them. Beware!

But for not listening, and having experienced these horribles myself, I developed an ardent, perspective-driven zeal for managing such matters. Clean underwear is serious business. Food stays away from the bed and is otherwise bused to the kitchen with strict regularity. Rent and electricity bills are paid on time, every time. If, for some reason they’re not, landlords and utility companies are called in advance so they know about delays and why, and non-interruption of service is negotiated.

Without fail.

That’s what adulting is.

Faking It

But adulting doesn’t make me feel like an adult at all. Neither does the necessity of fulfilling adulting duties.

An adult, I imagine, would have moments of respite, in which everything is done. Bills are paid. House is clean. Children are in order. Food is cooked. It’s Miller time!

That never happens.

Instead, I triage. I consistently have to assess which tasks have been neglected the longest. Some tasks I ignore altogether, knowing consequences are far off.

So rather than feeling mature, I feel like a kid trying to pass as an adult. I’m the abandoned kid who doesn’t want to get thrown into foster care: so long as I pay my bills and sweep my front porch, no-one will question whether or not I deserve the freedom and responsibility of adulthood. And so I keep up the facade.

And I suspect that’s how most adults feel in the US, whether or not they give up and decide to mermaid a bit.


The opposite of adulting is mermaiding, as in I’m done adulting! Let’s be mermaids! This is, I’ve discovered, a known and celebrated meme. It’s a more proactive way of saying I’m sick of this bullshit.

As of this posting, mermaiding is in that linguistic limbo where gay was in the early 80s, when the dictionaries still defined gay as per we’ll have a gay old time, yet it was common knowledge (not yet to me) that it meant something different. Look up a dictionary definition or a Wikipedia article on mermaid, and you’ll find the aquatic fish-tailed mythological creature. Even the urban dictionary sports several definitions of mermaid that boil down to:

Sea hippies: beach combers, sunbathers, surfers and other folk who really like the sea. Also the hottie on the swim team.
Someone who drinks like a fish. Is three-sheets-to-the-wind. Staggering o’er the deck. Engaging in evasive maneuvers. Is in The Navy now.
In the tradition of Women are from Venus, a woman who is unrelatable, from the perspective of the sod who is frustrated relating to her.

Were I to hazard a guess, contemporary usage of mermaid not referring to a siren or other mythical fish-person may be related to the eponymous 1990 Cher / Winona Rider / Christina Ricci vehicle.

In this parlance (I continue to guess from context), mermaiding is to relax and frolic without guilt or self judgement. For me, it’s coping mechanisms like video games to survive high stress, or depression. At the most extreme, it’s risky, reckless, indulgent behavior (drinking, fucking, gambling, tearing up 80s ballads at public karaoke bars), but of the kind that reminds us why we continue to live and find it worthwhile having to suffer so much of this adulting crap.

Work and Play

Adulting and mermaiding have become the contemporary popular-culture parlance for work and play (given work and play have taken on other meanings.) It’s a way to linguistically separate serious business from jubilee and merriment.

This is to say adulting and mermaiding give us the language to acknowledge our inner children (forgive the cliché). More importantly, to recognize that all work and no play breaks both Jack and Jill. That even when there isn’t enough time in the week to get all of our adulting done, if we don’t mermaid we’ll go crazy. We’ll forget why we live. We’ll get sick or act out or skip over mermaiding and go straight to family annihilator or munchausen by proxy territory. This language gives us the words useful to identify our needs beyond those satisfied by adulting, and in so doing be better adults to ourselves.

Are We Not Men?

Are we regarded as adults by society? It depends on which part of society.

Our employers don’t think so. For those stuck in the bottom rungs of labor, we’re barely recognized as human. Our employers expect us to adult — for them — as much as can the most persistent of us, for as small a pittance as the cheapest of us can tolerate. They begrudge us our breaks, our needs, our children and our lives outside of being cogs in their profit engines. So long as there are more workers than positions, this won’t change.** Similarly, marketers and campaigners see the human masses as generally manipulable, that so long as they make the right promises (whether or not those promises are reasonable) we’ll cast rationality or consideration to the wind and choose their product or their candidate. The 2016 Presidential Election results seem to suggest they’re right.

We have to be adult for ourselves. And this means we have to define for ourselves what maturity means to us, and then strive to be that.

Maturity, I’ve come to realize, is not about holding jobs or getting laid or accruing material assets, rather it’s about being able to handle the trials and tribulations of real life. And when real life presents situations beyond holding together, maturity is about acknowledging the impending crash, and keeping it a controlled descent as much as possible.

The language of adults and mermaids helps describe this kind of maturity. For instance:

Sometimes I need to adult, to take care of business so that my affairs don’t fall apart. Also sometimes I need to mermaid, or I will come apart emotionally, and won’t be able to adult at all.

Sometimes there’s just too much to adult, and it’s going to overwhelm me. I need to triage. I need to organize. I need to hold together so that I don’t go crazy. And this means that I’ll need to mermaid a bit to stay coherent, even when there’s still too much adulting left to do.

This balance between adulting and mermaiding is one that every person has to find, and that it’s different for each one. Some people find it easy to adult for long periods, but forget to mermaid. Some find themselves binging on mermaiding and avoiding adulting. People are often dysfunction regarding this balance. It’s often a struggle. But no one is wrong or bad for how they do things. I need to give them the room to find their balance, even when it seems, from my vantage, disproportionate.

Our society gives too much respect for adulting and not enough for mermaiding. Our culture regards industry as virtuous and idleness as sinful. Hard workers are held in high esteem, even when they destroy their lives and their families in pursuit of of their careers. We regard loafers and easy-goers as lazy and worthless even though there is no discernible difference between sloth (idleness as a character flaw) and avolition (idleness as a symptom of depression).

Adulting and Mermaiding are contemporary terms for important duties to others and recreation for ourselves, and with those terms, we can acknowledge them both. We can consider their necessity in our lives. We can discuss how we balance them with each other.

Saying that we have to adult — to actively engage in being an adult — is not to say we aren’t otherwise adult persons. Nor is saying that we sometimes indulge in periods of not being an adult suggesting that we fail at being adult. Rather these are the language by which we describe how we do both, and how we set aside time and energy for each of them. This is how we discuss, and thereby take control, of our responsibilities to ourselves and others.

This is what maturity looks like.

* Jessica Grose actually said common use of adulting represents a rejection of female maturity. I’d argue that this would be the case only if a woman uses it with the implication that I can’t adult well because I’m a girl. I’m sure that most of us don’t adult well, largely because our society presses duties and responsibilities on us until we break (often seeking to capitalize on that breaking point). Adulting, our need to not adult sometimes, and our failure to consistently adult have nothing to do with gender, nor are they effective indicators of our maturity. Thise might, however, indicate high levels of contention between commerce-driven society and us individuals.

** Grose mentioned a pattern of folks posting their adulting tasks (say, completed ones) to their social networks. While I don’t have accounts for Facebook or Snapchat, I will chat my completions to my sweetheart, much the way friends on projects will keep a progress blog. The point is not that a reward is expected (We can buy our own kindergarten-style gold stars — or better yet, M&Ms — if we need them.) but by declaring our progress or lack thereof, it makes it observed. It means we’re being watched when we’re being lazy, whether we’re mermaiding or adulting. And this accountability helps us adult, even when it is monitored by no-one in particular.