Aunt Pythia’s advice
Aunt Pythia has two wee bits of bad news.
First, nobody helped out NYC and Wondering from last week looking to get educated via internships past college age. Maybe if the question were worded differently it would have gotten more responses.
In the meantime, NYC and Wondering, I’d suggest you look into MOOCs on Coursera, Udacity, and the like. There are Meetup groups you can join once you’re in a course like this one.
Second, Aunt Pythia has been informed that some people are getting error messages when they try to submit questions. That’s no good! If that’s happening to you, please comment below using the phrase, “question for Aunt Pythia” and it will automatically go into my mailbox instead of getting posted.
On to this week’s questions:
Dear Aunt Pythia,
I am suffering from severe Facebook phobia. Is the entire phenomenon as repulsive as I think it is?
Curmudgeon Lee Luddite
Dear Curmudgeon LL,
Here’s the thing. I am totally grossed out by Facebook on so many levels. As a concerned data scientist, the shit they pull with respect to personal information, letting other people post private information about you, and selling your data makes me really uneasy. Read this recent article about the Facebook Doctrine (“What’s good for Facebook is good for you”) if you want to hear more. Mind you, that Doctrine seems to be pretty clear-cut if you modify it just a bit: “What’s good for Facebook is good for the stock price of Facebook”: the market loves the trend of information selling because it’s magnificently profitable.
Another thing that pisses me off, which I learned about in the student presentations last week at the Columbia Data Science class I was blogging: people are posting various legalese-sounding letters to Facebook on their timeline which tells Facebook to keep their hands off their personal data. Guess what, kids, it’s too late, you signed away your rights when you entered, and such crap only serves as yet another illusion of control (along with the Facebook privacy settings).
Having said all that, I use Facebook myself – but of course I never post anything remotely private on it. But for that matter I also use Google+, and I’m ready and willing to use another platform when one comes along that’s less creepy.
Curmudgeon, to answer your question, yes it’s just as repulsive as you think. I fully defend your disgust, and if anyone questions it just send that person to me, I’ll set them straight.
Dear Aunt Pythia,
Should I go to the Joint Math Meetings if I’m thinking of leaving academia realllly soon?
It depends. Is it tough for you to go? Would you miss job opportunities by doing so? I’m assuming you are planning to leave academia but you haven’t actually gotten another job.
If the answer is that it’s relatively easy to go and that you don’t have any other plans that weekend, then by all means you should go. And you should make a plan beforehand on what information you can gather about jobs that math people do.
For example, make sure you have a good idea of what kind of jobs in academia there really are, by interviewing a bunch of people about what they do on a daily basis. But keep in mind that most of them will be drunk because it’s the Joint Math Meetings and that’s kind of the point. And also keep in mind you’re hearing much more about academia than about industry since you’re at this meeting.
But that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck only hearing about academia! Because I’ll be there, talking about the world outside academic math, and so will a few other people. I am particularly psyched that I’ll be speaking on the first day so I can meet people after my talk and hang out with them for the next few days, getting drunk and playing bridge. It’s very serious business, of course.
See you soon I hope!
Dear Aunt Pythia,
Is health insurance a sound financial investment?
Great question. It’s not really an investment, and it’s only a good idea once in a while; the problem is knowing in advance when it’s a good idea.
I say it’s not an investment because usually with an investment you can expect to make money, whereas insurance is never like that. Once you pay insurance premiums that money is gone.
Insurance can, however, be seen as a financial bet: you’re betting that losing a predictable and smallish amount of money is less painful than the overall risk of losing an unpredictable and large amount of money if you get horribly sick and need major treatment.
There are plenty of problems with this explanation though, including:
- it’s not so smallish if you don’t have work or if you have crappy work through a place like Walmart,
- you personally might be very healthy and the risk of getting super sick might not be high, say if you’re 24 and fit; this means that your money may be better spent buying high quality food than paying for health insurance, and
- the large amount of money you may get billed with if you do end up horribly sick can be discharged through bankruptcy, and in fact most of the bankruptcy proceedings happen because of medical debt of uninsured people. Keep in mind you will lose your house (if you have one) if you go this route, so only consider it if you’re willing to take that risk.
In the end it depends on your situation whether it’s worth it to buy health insurance.
I hope that helps!
Why do some foods burn when you stir them? It doesn’t make sense that my rice or pasta should burn when there is still a lot of water in the pot just because I stirred it.
Physics-Inclined Wannabe Chef
This is a great question! Is it even true? Does it also happen with orzo? People, get out your pots and do some mythbuster-type experiments! And then comment below with your ideas and results.
I’m counting on you nerdy folks to get to the bottom of this, so to speak.
In the meantime, if you have a moral, personal, or emotional dilemma or somesuch, please share avec moi below on my gorgeous new form: