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Aunt Pythia’s advice

February 2, 2013

I’m excited to be spending the day at the BiCoastal Datafest looking into money and politics. But before I go, I need to answer some questions as my alter ego Aunt Pythia.

If you don’t know what you’re in for, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia, and most importantly, please submit your question at the bottom of this column.


First, let’s review last week’s advice you helped out with:

Dear Aunt Pythia,

I need a pie crust recipe and a personal lubricant recommendation. Please try to incorporate lard into both answers.

Apple Pie Seductress

Apple Pie Seductress,

Wobblebug gave you an amazing and involved pie crust recipe here. Please send me feedback on the smear-and-fold-and-roll-out method.

As for the personal lubricant, I spotted that immediately as a trick question, since you do all the pie crust stuff with your bare hands.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

Are all people supposed to feel down when they are thirty? If so, is this something we learn or a defect we are born with?

Hurts all over

Dear Hurts,

I’m not sure about everybody else, but 30 was a really tough time for me. I had 2 small kids, a post-doc at MIT where nobody else did number theory and I always felt crappy, and I had no idea how long that feeling would last. I was on the job market for the 4th year in a row wishing someone would eventually want me to be part of their department and wondering why I decided to be a mathematician.

I am a lot better now, and looking back I can understand why I felt so completely stressed out and lost. A large part of it is that I’ve shifted the expectations and now, instead of wondering when someone will want me, I wonder if I’ll want them. It’s not like that makes it all better but somehow it’s comforting.

Plus, ever since I turned 40, I have realized that everyone’s entitled to my opinion. Thus the blog and this column. But somehow the confidence I feel now in the way I look at life was something I just didn’t have when I was 30.

I’m not sure what my advice is, exactly, except to say hang in there and you might become as obnoxious and opinionated as me.

Oh, and in the meantime you might benefit from a pep talk (hat tip Becky):

I hope that helps!

Aunt Pythia


Aunt Pythia,

I have been successfully self-employed for a several years but I want to move into a more formal job. I have a decent presence online and would like to let readers, peers, Twitter followers etc. know that I’m looking, but without alienating current customers and clients. Should I just try through private channels first, and save a public notice for last in case nothing turns up?

Maple Leaf

Dear Maple Leaf,

Have you considered asking for a lead “for a friend” who has qualifications that are uncannily similar to yours? And then when it comes down to the private conversation you can say, “Actually, ‘Fred’ is me. I’m looking for a job.”



Aunt Pythia,

I have a skeleton in my closet… actually it’s more like a still warm corpse. I hate to advertise it (why should I tell people something bad about myself) but I also want to avoid disingenuousness in the event that they find out later. What would you do?

Between a rock and a hard place

Dear Between,

I suggest you remember back to what your reasoning was that made you decide to do whatever it was or be involved with whatever it was, and be prepared to explain it openly and efficiently. Depending on what it is (“I killed children for their livers”, “I used to work in finance”) you will find people understand past mistakes, especially if they are owned up to, and especially if you can say, “it was a mistake, but I didn’t know better at the time because (insert truth here).”

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Finally, a question for the readers:

Aunt Pythia,

How do you explain your work (and its importance/relevance to the world) to laypeople? I’m interested in your answers to this question for math, for finance, and for data science.


Please respond to Pre-Expositor below!


And please submit questions, thanks!

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. brownian
    February 2, 2013 at 11:30 am

    Cathy/Aunt Pythia,
    I like the video and your advice about how to handle age 30 crisis. Thanks!


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