Home > Aunt Pythia > Aunt Pythia’s advice, flannel version

Aunt Pythia’s advice, flannel version

December 14, 2013

Aunt Pythia aint gonna lie, she’s all about flannel this week. Right now she’s wearing flannel pajamas and snuggled underneath a flannel sheet. She’s looking forward to taking a warm bath and then getting into flannel lined pants and a flannel shirt, also lined.

[Aside: it’s all about the lining.]

It’s been a particularly good year in flannel fashion, just in case you’re wondering. And, the clothes horse that Aunt Pythia is, she’s been sampling the various wares.

Conclusion: LLBean knows from comfy warmth.

Now that we’ve addressed the theme of the day, it’s time for some serious advice distribution. And remember, as you enjoy today’s column:

please, think of something flannelly to ask Aunt Pythia at the bottom of the page!

By the way, if you don’t know what the hell Aunt Pythia is talking about, go here for past advice columns and here for an explanation of the name Pythia.


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I have two (much) younger brothers, aged 4 and 5. Can you recommend any books/youtube videos/games I can read/play/do with them to help them learn about and enjoy math?

Rapt in Flatland

Dear RiF,

I really think that age range is too young to explicitly learn math from a book. But it’s not too young to have discussions (it’s incredibly important to make this an interactive Socratic dialog, not a monologue from an adult!) about, say,

  1. the number line (where’s 0? What’s on the other side of 0?)
  2. why the earth spins
  3. what the solar system looks like (talking first without pictures or models)
  4. why the moon looks different on different days

If that all seems cool, you can move on to

  1. why there are seasons
  2. why daylight is shorter in the winter
  3. what really defines a “pattern”

In other words, super concrete things that require mind-expanding 3-dimensional visualizations and/or questioning of basic assumptions and definitions. You’d be surprised how many weeks these conversations can last with a 4- or 5-year old.

Also, please keep in mind that jigsaw puzzles, while not strictly logical exercises, are super awesome. And the Tower of Hanoi puzzle is super mathematical as well, the solution being a coded way to count in binary.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia

p.s. Just gave my yearly contribution to wikipedia. Love that site.


Dear Aunt Pythia,

My girlfriend has a genuinely very complicated family life, and, though she definitely loves me, has much much less time to be with me than I would like. I do love her, but now I’m increasingly irritated at being alone so much even while I nominally have a girlfriend, and it’s affecting my feelings and even my desire for her. But this is absolutely not something we can discuss. She is doing her best and that’s it, and gets upset at any discussion, sometimes even hostile. It may end badly.


Increasingly Irritated

Dear II,

Yes, I do have a suggestions. Discuss it with her. It’s the only way you’re going to get relief and get to a relationship that works for both of you.

I think it might help to ask her to make an appointment with you to discuss the arrangement between you two, and it might also help to imply that it’s very important to your future as a couple. Give her some time to prepare for this discussion but not an arbitrary amount of time.

To be super explicit, here are some phrases you might want to use. “I’d really like to sit down with you and discuss our relationship and its future. It would be great to have a discussion in the next two weeks. Here are some times that work for me, and where we have as much time as we need to finish the first part of the conversation, which I know will be difficult for both of us.”

That way you’re both respectfully demanding a discussion and giving her the emotional credit that it’s going to be tough on her.

A bit more advice: don’t conflate why it’s difficult with your request for a discussion. Then she’ll ignore the request and focus on how difficult it is for her.

Now, you didn’t ask this, and I don’t know much about your situation, but can we spend just a moment wondering what’s really going on here? I don’t want to sound negative, but whatever it is that’s going on, she’s not spending much time with you and is not even really willing to explain why. Those two things in combination make me want to advise you to just break up with her now, and forget the discussion.

In fact, in breaking up with her, you might get a discussion for free, if she really wants to keep you. And if she doesn’t, you should be the hell out of there anyway and with someone who’s making time to be with you.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

As 50 approaches and work opportunities seem to be disappearing, do you really think it is possible to reinvent yourself and move into a different field?

I have applied my expertise in various quantitative and analytical fields to move from number cruncher (and forecasting) to more policy-based analysis roles. Is management the only answer? Every other role seems to be eaten by the progression of technology into various fields.

Grumpy Old Dude

Dear GOD,

My guess is that your salary and experience has made the lower-level analyst jobs both unappealing and out of reach for you. If you’re going to cost that much, the reasoning goes, you need to be doing more. Thus management.

Can I just make one argument in favor of management? If someone with your experience is in charge of telling people with very little or no experience how to do number crunching and analysis well, then things would be much more efficient. In an ideal world, that would be your role as manager – doling out sage advice to inexperienced analysts. So see if that makes sense and excites you.

But, to answer your question, it’s never too late to reinvent yourself. Some of my favorite people did so when they were 75.

Good luck!

Auntie P


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I’m a Libertarian. I find it pretty much impossible to have an intelligent discussion with liberals about anything even remotely related to politics. The same is not true with conservatives, even though I disagree with them just as much. Consequently I just don’t participate in such conversations. Unfortunately I both love a good debate and live in a very liberal state, so this has lead me to feel somewhat isolated and starved for good conversation.

I’ve talked to other libertarian minded people and they’ve had similar experiences. Conservatives can be infuriating in some of their beliefs, but at least you can reason with them on most issues. With liberals it’s impossible, unless you already pretty much agree and are just quibbling over details.

You’re about as liberal as people come. Do you have any advice on how one could have a civil discussion with a liberal on issues where you have relatively fundamental disagreements?

Lonely Libertarian

Dear LL,

Yes. Discuss what your commonalities are first, and move cautiously and carefully outwards from there. Suggestions here include: Too Big to Fail banks are not OK, Google and the NSA stealing our private data is not OK, and other currently shitty things about the world.

Next, before going to the inevitable argument about how to fix these problems, talk about exactly why these things are not OK. Then start talking about the concept of fixing them – what characteristics would a solution enjoy? What is not acceptable, and why?

That should take enough time to get through lunch.

Good luck! And don’t forget, liberals make great lovers! They’re really into massages.

Auntie P


Dear Aunt Pythia,

So, after all the turkey and pie and so forth, was the ratio of time spent agonising in the kitchen to time spent going ‘Yay, Thanksgiving’ a good one? And how would you determine a metric for Thanksgiving enjoyment?

(Asking in contemplation of what’s likely to happen at Christmas…)

Strange Oblivious Briton

Dear SOB,

I could totally tell you were British from your weird spelling of “agonizing!”.

For me, Thanksgiving was a success if 1) the turkey didn’t make anyone sick and 2) nobody threw plates frisbee-style at each others’ heads in the heat of an argument.

A particularly good sign is when people are still willing to hug each other when they finally leave the building, assuming anyone’s actually still there at all and hasn’t stormed off in a huff.

Haha just kidding, kind of. The truth is these big meals are just so so difficult, I honestly think you should keep standards as low as possible and be pleasantly surprised at every moment of happiness.

And whatever you do, stop agonizing in the kitchen, nobody will appreciate your effort anyway!! Just throw a bird into the oven and come back 6 hours later, seriously.

Merry Christmas,

Aunt Pythia


Please submit your well-specified, fun-loving, cleverly-abbreviated question to Aunt Pythia!

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. December 14, 2013 at 9:15 am

    4 & 5 might be a bit young for regular video games, but for younger gamers (<15) – here is a review show/site http://www.abc.net.au/abc3/goodgamesp/reviews/
    "GG:SP features a mix of gamer reviews, stories about gaming culture and plenty of audience interaction."
    You can watch the full shows on the site.

    Good Game (http://www.abc.net.au/tv/goodgame/) is for older gamers


  2. December 14, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    A few years ago I just decided to buy a smoked turkey instead of cooking it myself and just focused on the sides (it helps that there’s so many great bbq places here, one of the few advantages of living in TX). Makes Thanksgiving 100x easier, and the turkey is better than any that I’ve had cooked in an oven.


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