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Ask Aunt Pythia

September 7, 2013

Aunt Pythia’s mailbox has been satisfyingly full this week, and she thanks you all for your questions. Please keep them coming, she looks forward to Saturdays ever so much.

Go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia.

And please, Submit your question for Aunt Pythia at the bottom of this page!


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I want to pursue a career as a data scientist. I am very comfortable with maths and statistics and love spending time with large data sets. However, I don’t have any background in programming. I am wondering what all I can do in the next 12-18 months to be a pro in this field and whether a degree is data science the way to go about it.

Future Data Scientist

Dear FDS,

First of all, I feel like I’m being set up by Miss Disruption on this question, whose answer is always “learn to code” and who came out with another hilarious advice column this past week (best line: “Instead of putting your trust in what you think looks like Mark Zuckerberg, put your trust in numbers. Numbers that will tell you how much someone looks like Mark Zuckerberg.”).

Second of all, I think you need to learn to code. It’s fun, and the number of resources available nowadays is outrageous. Plus you don’t have to be a really good coder to be a data scientist (I know, I’ve just offended a bunch of people). You just need to be able to get the data into usable format, which is tricky, and then you need to know what to do with it – it’s much more about questions of what to do than it is about questions of whether your code looks great, at least when you’re working on your own projects.

Depending on your preferred learning style, I’d say get a classic CS text and read it, or take some free courses online, or just start on a project and refer to examples to learn how to do specific tasks.

Oh, and first install Anaconda.

Good luck!



Dear Aunt Pythia,

A decade ago I had a bad breakup with my first girlfriend (in which I felt I was largely at fault). After a while, she wanted to continue being friends, but I found this too difficult and told her never to contact me again. Over the years, I made peace with myself, and periodically thought of contacting her to apologize, but always held back (note: I never once had any intention of getting back with her romantically).

Now, I’ve been married for years, and it’s also been years since she’s been married with a kid (I know only because of a mutual friend), and for some reason she sent me a friend request on Facebook.

  1. Because of our mutual friends on Facebook, both our existences on Facebook are clear; I have never sent her a friend request, however.
  2. This a violation of my old request not to be contacted.
  3. I’m over that old request and don’t have a problem with resuming some minimal contact in the form of “Facebook friend”.
  4. I asked my wife if it’s OK, and she got weird about it, and we concluded that therefore it’s not OK.
  5. I was considering sending her a message that my wife said it’s not OK.
  6. My wife thinks that would be weird and I should ignore her.
  7. I don’t want to just ignore her but want to at least finally say I’m sorry for the things I said in the last communication we had a decade ago.

What is Facebook Etiquette?

Dear What,

This has nothing to do with Facebook, except in that it happens to be the medium for your potential exchange with your ex. It’s really about your regrets about your past behavior to this woman.

I’m going to respond to your points in turn.

  1. If I’m her, I think it’s super safe to ask to be your friend since we’re both married now.
  2. Who the hell thinks a decade-old request like that still holds? That’s just plain weird.
  3. How kind and generous of you! Not really.
  4. Sounds to me like you’re trying to make your wife take responsibility here for your stuff.
  5. That’s super ridiculous. Either man up and be her friend or leave her alone.
  6. Again with what the wife thinks. Think for yourself!
  7. If you really want to apologize, just do it.

This is something you either need to own, and do it right, either on Facebook or by email, since you presumably could get her email via a common friend, or you need to put to bed and forget about. I’m sure she’d prefer the former (and I’m guessing that you would too, at least once you got yourself to do it) but is already making do with the latter. What you don’t do is send her some crapola about how you “can’t be Facebook friends with her” because of your wife. That’s nuts.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Auntie P,

I think sex is awesome. How do I have more of it?

I am in a very stable, loving relationship for over a decade, with all the kids and stuff that happens when you spend so long with someone (and I love all it). We have good sex, sometimes great sex, but we only rarely have amazing sex. Here are some specific questions for you:

1. I want sex a lot more often than my partner. That’s a bit frustrating, what should I do?

2. I’d love to try something different. Not too crazy, but different. We know each other too well and are more often than not following into the routine of “efficient sex”, going for the kill. What do I do?

3. With kids, a busy job, lots of hobbies and other stuff, and not enough sleep, how do you make time for long sex sessions? I’ve never tried cocaine, should I begin?

Thanks for the tips,

Perverse Bundle


Dear PB,

First of all, you are not alone. This is about the most common complaint I hear from my friends in happy marriages. First, be proud that it’s as good as it is!

Next, the truth is, no two people have exactly the same sex drive, and over time the mismatch of desire gets worse due to the natural form of complementary schismogenesis which exists in practically every sexual relationship.

That is to say, the man or woman who wants more sex, even if it’s just a little bit more, starts to feel rejected, and has moments of aggressiveness and hostility surrounding their unmet desire, which makes the man or woman who wants less sex feel even less like it, and the ante gets upped, and the cycle continues. It’s a feedback loop that often spirals out of control.

It doesn’t even sound like that’s where you are, but it’s a danger because it’s always a danger.

How does one build a dampening effect to counteract this schismogenesis? Maybe it would be possible to explicitly funnel your unmet desires into some other activity where you get attention, though possibly not sexual attention.

So, you could have friends over regularly for parties with your partner, or you could go out with your friends regularly, or you could get ambitious and start playing the guitar and go out to do open mics, or you could even join a band. The point is that you get fun stuff to do and not enough time to dwell on being rejected, and moreover your partner will find you irresistibly cute and brave and sexy once you’re up on stage.

Next, when you’re super busy with kids and national tours from your new music career, long sex sessions don’t happen by themselves. You need to make time for them, in the form of date nights. And dates can happen inside bedrooms, but even so, call them “date nights” since that sounds better than “scheduled sex”.

Finally: say no to cocaine, but do buy sex toys.

Good luck!

Auntie P


Dear Auntie,

I’m not always as good a parent as I’d like myself to be. I’m trying to reason with my 3 kids who are all younger than 4, but they always go too far and I end up yelling too often. I NEVER yell at anyone else, though. I know exactly the kind of situations that trigger the yelling, but they’re unavoidable. What should I do?

Uncle Stach

Dear Uncle Stach,

First, I have an enormous amount of sympathy for anyone dealing with even one kid, never mind three. So give yourself a break, and try try again, every morning. It’s a life-long job and it’s totally possible to slowly improve your techniques over time.

Second, I think I know what your problem is: namely, there’s no reasoning with kids under 4 years old. There’s ritual and rules, and depending on how old they are and how consistently you proceed with those rituals and rules, they might or might not be familiar with how things are going to work out. My advice is to choose a ritual (going to bed seems to be a good one) and make sure it is incredibly consistent and early (say 6:30 or 7:00 pm, no kidding) and do the exact same thing every day for two weeks with all your kids. Getting a good night’s sleep is absolutely vital for being able to handle the next day. Once you’ve got that ritual down, introduce other rituals and slowly create a world for them which is embedded with rituals, which kids totally adore.

As for reasoning: you can start reasoning with kids once they’re in school. Before that, just give them the choice of two options: drawing or jigsaw puzzle, playground or sprinklers, do what I want or do what I really want.

Third, there’s yelling and then there’s yelling. What you absolutely cannot do is get abusive when you yell. Stuff like “you’re stupid” or “you’re lazy” has been shown to be as damaging for teenagers as physical abuse, so don’t do it. Don’t shame kids or insult them, ever. If you find yourself tempted to make blanket negative statements, take five and go to the bathroom. When they do nasty things, by all means make them apologize for those actions, but never let those actions define them.

On the other hand, a stern tone of voice when you tell your 3-year-old to sit in her chair until dinner is over it totally appropriate, as long as it doesn’t turn into a screaming match. As for screaming: my advice is to ignore screams, and if they don’t dissipate, put kids in their rooms so at least it’s not as loud. Never give in to a screaming kid, that’s like asking them to scream.

Finally, here’s a book I really got a lot out of: Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child. Explained to me how to get my babies to sleep 12 hours a night, which they pretty much still do.

Good luck! And enjoy them!!

Aunt Pythia


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Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. suevanhattum
    September 7, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    I think those of us who love to reason have trouble imagining that kids don’t work that way. I managed to do the two choices plus rituals thing when my son was little (under 5, maybe), and seldom lost it. But my desire to treat him respectfully backfired when he started being able to argue coherently. I gave in way too often. And I probably encouraged arguments way too often. I read a book a few years ago that helped me change my mindset on this, but I still haven’t managed to find my balance again. (My son is 11 now, and I am nowhere near as good a parent as I was when he was little.)

    The book I read is Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm, and Connected, by Susan Stiffelman. Maybe if you read it now, when your kids are still little, it will help more.

    I also agree with Cathy – sleep is vital. My son still sleeps 11 hours a night.


  2. Abe Kohen
    September 7, 2013 at 9:25 pm

    Abelson & Sussman? Lisp? Really? Why? Does MIT still use the book?


  3. FogOfWar
    September 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    “…and for some reason she sent me a friend request on Facebook.”

    Probably because she was drunk. Just sayin’



    • Wogglebug
      September 9, 2013 at 6:37 pm

      My guess is just that Facebook nagged her to connect with everyone she’d ever known, and finally she clicked ‘yes’ just to make it shut up.


  1. September 7, 2013 at 9:31 am
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