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Aunt Pythia’s advice

January 4, 2014

Aunt Pythia is on her yearly retreat to her favorite yarn store in the world, otherwise known as Webs in North Hampton, MA. It’s a nice town but very cold. In that spirit, and as you are enjoying today’s column,

please, think of something warm 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,

Being a divorced father of three lovely grown daughters, two of whom who live in AK, I have decided to be with them over the holidays. Now according to them and most other women there, “it is where the odds are good, but the goods are odd.” That of course reflects the fact that there are many more men than there are women in Alaska, but the men are a bit kooky.

Anyway, I have three questions for you. First, will I be viewed as being “odd” because of my two year involvement with Occupy? I mean, there are not a lot of enlightened people in the red state of Alaska, women or men. You do remember Sarah Palin, right?!

Now considering myself an ‘enlightened man’, my second question is this: if I do have the chance to have a tryst with an un-enlightened woman, should I go for it, and talk politics afterward?

And the third question is if, I do go for it, how do I get out of my daughter’s home without raising suspicion? I mean… I cannot tell them that I am going out to the ‘deli’ because having been raised in the East, they know there are no such things in Alaska, so this would automatically make them become suspicious.

Soon To Be Bewildered In AK

Dear Soon,

First, do you mind if I change your name to “Recently”?

Second, I know there was an Occupy Anchorage arm of the movement, so please go find those guys.

Next, always talk politics afterwards. If then.

Finally, you’re a grown man, I’d expect you can just tell your daughters you’re sneaking out to get lucky and ask them to keep their fingers crossed.

Good luck!

Auntie P


Dear Aunt Pythia,

For the last 2.5 years I have been the care taker for my seriously ill elderly parents of whom one died over a year ago. I only now feel free to apply for full time faculty positions, but I am worried how to explain this situation on my job applications. I know I can’t just ignore it as my last paper was published in 2011. I have though continued to do some research and have backlog of seven papers that are at least half finished. Other than getting those papers out, what other advice do you have?

Thank you

JAA is Another Acronym

Dear JAA,

I honestly think you just tell them straight up that you were taking care of your seriously ill elderly parents. Mathematicians are people too and they have sympathy.

And yes, get the papers out, and talk about how much you love teaching and doing research. When you think about it, 2.5 years isn’t really that long, if you can still demonstrate that you’re active in research. I’d probably try to go to a conference in your field as well to be on top of things.

Good luck,

Aunt Pythia


Hello Aunt Pythia,

I am really fascinated by your acceptance of your body. However, I don’t have that. Is that something that one can develop?

One thing that is an obstacle is that being overweight increases my chances of developing type II diabetes like my parent and grandparent. My doctor would like me to lose weight, I want to lose weight, which makes it hard to accept my current weight.

The second issue is that my mental image of attractiveness involves not having rolls of fat. I don’t care about size so much as about the body not being lumpy. I find it very difficult to accept that I am sexually attractive.

Unhappily Overweight

Dear Unhappily,

I’m not sure how easy it is to develop acceptance of your own body, but it’s definitely worth a try and even small improvements will be worthwhile. Here are some tips.

  1. Think long and hard about what actually looks and feels attractive to you in terms of clothing, and do what you can to wear clothing that emphasizes parts of your body that you like. I go through phases of this, sometimes it’s “fit and flare” dresses that avoid the tent problem, sometimes it’s jeans and flannel shirts with funky shoes that just make me feel badass.
  2. Make a list of activities that leave your body feeling good and that you enjoy doing, and make a daily high-priority appointment with yourself to do one of those things – block out some time and don’t make appointments then. Taking a brisk walk works for me, and so does swimming and biking. Try to do something like that once or twice a day, but forgive yourself immediately if you don’t, so you’ll try again the next day.
  3. Keep in mind that nobody really knows how to lose weight, including doctors, so a doctor telling you to deal with it is kind of useless and promotes guilt in you without solving the problem. Fuck that.
  4. Which is not to say you should ignore your risk of diabetes. If you are taking unavoidable naps a couple of hours after meals, and if coffee doesn’t help but sugar does, that’s a bad sign, which I experienced when I was 39. What helps for me is to religiously avoid “fast carbs,” and I encourage you to experiment.
  5. But in any case keep in mind that other people are at risk for diseases too, and that doesn’t make them question their attractiveness. Try to separate the two issues.
  6. Next, stop watching TV or whatever media is convincing you that you cannot be attractive. Just turn it off. I’m in a hotel this week, so I’m exposed to TV in ways that I’m normally not (we don’t have TV at home) and I really can’t believe how many ads there are for weight loss – probably timed for New Year’s resolutions. I’m getting carpal tunnel syndrome from all the turning off I’m doing here. What does that mean? It means there’s an industry out there trying to make you feel bad so you will pay for their products. Fuck that.
  7. Finally, I suggest denial of small imperfections (or large ones, what the hell). Some people have body dysmorphia, but I’ve invented another condition which I’ve termed “body eumorphia” and which consists of believing I’m pretty much irresistibly attractive, at least to people who are wise enough to acknowledge it. It is achieved through following the above advice and just willing it to be true.

Good luck!

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I was recently reading about 23andMe’s plan to collect all of our genomes, merge them with Google’s don’t-worry-your-privacy-is-totally-protected data stash (a founder of 23andMe is married to Sergei Brin), and create some orgasmic data analysis of Hitachi Magic Wand proportions. I’d like to ask your advice on how to design my own virus genome to irretrievably corrupt their system.

If that isn’t possible, what’s the best way to knock delivery drones out of the sky?

I’m glad Reagan is dead

Dear IgRid,

Wow, no offense, but you’re kind of evil. And I like you. I don’t think you really need my advice though, since you have much better ideas than I do. Instead I’ll ask you some questions.

First, when drones deliver our goods in the future, what’s gonna stop us from stealing those drones and repurposing them to our own benefit? I mean besides the video cameras and other surveillance mechanisms that will tip off Amazon and its private army about what we’re up to?

Second, have you seen this article about how shitty the current generation of genetics testing is? That’s not to say that it will be shitty in the future, especially when they sequence our entire genomes instead of looking for tiny little markers.

In fact, the whole industry has an incredible potential for creepiness, and I’m glad you’re thinking about ways to push back. Please keep me updated with your progress.


Auntie P


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

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. January 6, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    thank you for the NYT link on genetic tests, confirms my suspicions: that the search for a single gene or simple combination of genes to explain disease or anything else, is mere gambling: genetic expression is always going to play the wild card(s).

    A breeding program for raptors would be my preferred method of dealing with Amazon drones. See
    Simple, legal, effective, and puts more birds in the air, which seems to me an objective good.

    Failing that, a fine European side-by-side shotgun would do the job nicely, though possibly not legal except in Deer Trail CO.

    Or, build a hacker drone, to take control of the Amazon drone and bend it to your own nefarious will instead of theirs..


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