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Aunt Pythia’s advice

You know how sometimes when you wake up, your back hurts and you’re still pissed at the guy who shoved you on the subway when it rained and service was slow, but then other days you wake up and you just want to hug everyone you see and make the world some chocolate chip cookies? Well Aunt Pythia is in the chocolate chip cookie kind of a place today, so welcome in, and tell me if you’d prefer gluten free.



Aunt Pythia is here for you, my friends, and she’s listening to your complaints and questions with a sympathetic ear and an empathetic heart. She wants to help and to nurture, and she hopes she does both.

Please, after enjoying today’s Aunt Pythia post and cookies and advice:

think of something 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-Mama-Dr.-Professor-Occupier-Quant Pythia,

My question is: how do you do it? Are there more hours in your day than there are in my day? More days in your week? Do you have extra fingers? Seriously; do you have a schedule you keep? Wing it? What’s the deal?

Awed Observer

Dear AO,


First of all, some of it is illusory. I am no longer a quant, nor a professor. Although I work at Columbia again, I am now officially part of the administrative bloat, as a Program Director: staff, not faculty. So the first trick is to switch jobs a lot. That makes you seem really diverse.

Next, here are my tricks for avoiding ever wasting time. First of all, I am creative and I squeeze stuff into corners and spaces in time. I blog before anyone else wakes up, for example. I absolutely have a calendar, and the best part about it is saving space for my own thoughts and writing on it.

In other words, I use my calendar as a device to avoid scheduling stuff. Actually putting stuff on my calendar is a regrettable and final option. And that means I say no to almost everything that I can. I have not once gone to an event at my kids’ school that I didn’t have to, and I’ve also skipped the majority of required events, which makes me a huge asshole but also saves an asston of time. Plus my kids don’t like organized sports, bless their hearts, so I never go to soccer games and such. Huge time sink. I don’t even have a car, so I never get stuck in traffic.

I also rarely exercise or shower. My biggest luxury is sleep, which I do whenever I can. I am, in short, a disgusting human being.

Finally, a few odds and ends: it helps that I am a neglectful parent, and that I have a great coffee machine. The former allows me to ignore my kids whenever they want to ignore me, which is to say blissfully often, and the latter allows me to start writing almost immediately after waking up.


Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

You have provided advice to a reader about the custom of giving tips to service sector workers. I confess that I sometimes inadvertently forget this, usually when patronising a restaurant or salon staffed by migrants from my homeland, because we are all in there speaking our own language and I forget that I am in a different country.

Can you think of any other unusual/unique customs calling for special vigilance on the part of newcomers?

Thank you!

Always be Courteous

Dear AbC,

Thanks for giving me an excuse to get people to see these NYC Subway Etiquette cartoons, they are a hoot! And so wise and true. Here’s an important one:

The only unrealistic thing about this is that there'd be an empty seat in the first place.

The only unrealistic thing about this is that there’d be an empty seat in the first place.

And here’s a funny one:



There are more here.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I came across this description of Barnard here, and it contained the following:

Because of its relationship with Columbia, Barnard has in effect no ability to govern itself. It cannot and/or will not support its own faculty. Its faculty go through two tenure processes, the first at Barnard, the second at Columbia. Columbia gets the final say. This means that even if Barnard votes to grant a beloved faculty member tenure, Columbia can still turn the person down, and the person will be fired. There have been a number of shocking well-publicized cases of this kind, and also of the type where the Barnard tenure committee will deny a faculty member tenure in anticipation or fear of a rejection by Columbia. This points to the pervasive, utterly depressing inferiority complex and Columbia-loathing (which has nothing to do with Columbia and everything to do with Barnard) which characterizes the Barnard faculty and administration as a whole. Barnard faculty have to meet Columbia’s standards for tenure, yet Barnard faculty are paid less, teach more, and do not have access to benefits including housing and access to the school for faculty children. Finally, the crowning insult: Barnard tenures fewer women than Columbia–more evidence of the institution’s crippling self-loathing complex. It doesn’t help that the place is stacked with “spousal hires,” the less-qualified wives of Columbia profs. A nice place to teach for a few years, but don’t go anywhere near the tenure process, and don’t expect any kind of collegiality.

I can’t remember, but weren’t you at Barnard for a while? Any comments on the above description?


Dear Milly,

I really liked Barnard personally. I did notice people assuming that I was only hired because they wanted my husband at the Columbia math department, but I don’t blame Barnard for that, I blame those people. And wait, I didn’t assume it exactly, they told me that with their own mouths. Assholes.

I’ll speak for myself when I say that there is a weird relationship between the two schools, and probably weirder still in the math department because it’s a combined Barnard/ Columbia department, housed at Columbia. But I never felt self-loathing personally. Even so, it’s a personality thing: if someone treats you bad, do you blame them or do you blame yourself? I blame them.

This is honestly a much bigger conversation, but the whole thing about access to Columbia resources can be traced to the relative sizes of Columbia’s endowment versus Barnard’s, which itself can be traced to the sexist practices of alums back in the day, where Columbia was male-only and a Columbia man would marry a Barnard girl, they’d get rich, and then they’d give money to Columbia. The end result is that Barnard is relatively poor.

There are various ways to address this, but sadly Barnard’s current approach is horrible and includes taking Ina Drew as a trustee in order to whore themselves for more endowment. Ew.

Auntie P


Aunt Pythia,

The BK from this Aunt Pythia column is almost surely not the real BK. The story sounds too close to the Belle Knox story that made CNN several weeks ago. A student at Duke who didn’t want to go into debt and feels that this society is too prudish and went into porn. Outed by classmates Duke thankfully said it has no rules about outside employment. Good for them. But I doubt she is writing mathbabe because she is going into law.

It’s a wonderful story and I do believe our views are changing about sex and porn in the USA. Albeit slowly. Yes it’s objectifying, that’s the point. Like the point of finance is to make money. But there can be morals in both industries there is just too little of them now.

You may have been punked

Dear Ymhbp,

Yes I was totally fooled, although I don’t care at all, and I stand by my advice. As for the true BK, I still worry about her, especially now that I’ve googled her name and seen how much shit she’s had to go through. I gotta say, I’m not very impressed with our views here in the USA.

Aunt Pythia


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

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