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Aunt Pythia’s advice

May 10, 2014

Aunt Pythia is super excited to have you on her nerd advice bus this morning.

And readers, you knew the time would come that Aunt Pythia would be saying this, but the time is now, peoples: we’re talking about female penes. I’m saving it for the end, but for those of you who are too impatient, you can go ahead and jump to the bottom of the page.

That is, as long as you remember to:

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 Pythia,

De Blasio recently released his tax return, he had over 200K in income but paid only 8.3% in taxes. How does that work?

Guy who actually pays taxes in NYC

Dear Guy,

I’m no accountant but I suspect is has to do with “taking a loss” on the value of their home – which is pretty much a one-time accounting trick – as the article you provided described. Also, mortgage payments are tax deductible, which is a regressive tax and should be slowly phased out starting immediately.

By the way, if you’re getting all huffy about de Blasio, pardon me if I get much huffier about Bloomberg.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I am a female physics PhD student. A colleague once said to me that “If women want to be respected, they should not show cleavage.” What do you think?

Breasts of Oppression

Dear Breasts,

I’ve always thought quite the reverse. Namely, if men had boobs, they’d be showing them off all the time.

Different people can disagree about this, but my feeling is that cleavage is a kind of power, and some men and women find that threatening and/or distracting, and they don’t like feeling threatened or distracted so they make up nonsense about respectability (people in general don’t like to acknowledge threats).

That doesn’t mean women shouldn’t do use that power, it just means they should be aware of it and make sure they are in control of their power. I think it’s like men and muscles or height. You see tall men standing up to make a point and to use their height to their advantage. And you never hear a woman tell a man not to show off their height if they want to be respected. In fact, that sounds ridiculous.

My response to someone who said that would be to laugh in their face, honestly.

That’s not to say one can’t go too far. It’s not a linear, “cleavage is good so more cleavage is better” situation. At a certain point it can go too far, just as a man who wears muscle shirts and is constantly flexing his biceps in meetings – yes I’ve seen that happen – would be ridiculous.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

Why can’t their be a different “shadow” banking system that’s only casting shadows because it’s out in broad day light and is transparent? Why can’t groups of ordinary people pool their money and lend it to each other at market rates via a community oriented savings bank? Did these types of banks ever exist? If not, shouldn’t we be able to create them today with all of our cleverness and technology?


Dear RobFromAvon,

First, it’s a great thought experiment. What are the obstacles to having a bunch of people create a network of loans? Mostly it’s trust: if someone doesn’t pay back their loan, or someone in charge of holding money just goes missing or spends it, the community needs a recourse. That’s where the government comes in with its legal and justice system. Not to mention FDIC insurance in case the banking entity somehow can’t give you back your deposits.

In other words, banks really do something, at least in conjunction with the threat of jailtime, and you might not want to depend on your neighbor for that function.

That said, there is a growing movement afoot to simplify banking down to very basic functions as you describe, namely through Public Banks, although sometimes the customers are businesses and municipalities rather than individual consumers. Also don’t forget credit unions.

Aunt Pythia


Hi Aunt Pythia,

My husband (a mathematician) and I (a stay-at-home-mom once employed in **cough** finance) love reading your blog.

My husband is a manic-depressive. When we got married 8 years ago, we didn’t know that. And believe me, it sucked.

We made it for 3 years but that’s probably because my job had me away from home 14 hours a day. When I took him to the doctor, the diagnosis became life-changing. Now when he has a relapse, we usually see it coming and I am rooting for him instead of wondering who I’m married to.

That is, up until we had a baby last year. Our doctor is worried that emotional changes and the disruption to our schedule increases the risk of a relapse. He started a higher dosage combined with an additional daily pill.

This new level of prophylactic medication is impacting his work.

If it were just me and him, I would say, bring it, relapse! Now that we understand the relapses, they aren’t confusing or hurtful, at least not to _me_. But we are both worried about how it might affect our new family.

There must be lots of people doing research math with a variety of mental illnesses and different family arrangements, but it hasn’t been easy talking about it in his department. It doesn’t help that the relationship between mental illness and math is sometimes made out to be somewhat glamorous. What is your take on the relationship between mental illness and math research? Our other question is: what can we do so that he can work? I personally am in the locking the werewolf in his office on full moons camp, but we will run any thing that could help by our psychiatrist. A big thanks from both of us!

Hoping it’s a nonexclusive decision, life or work

Dear Hoping,

Sometimes I worry that I am unqualified to give advice in certain situations. In this case I’m not worried because I am absolutely sure that I’m unqualified to give you advice. So instead of advice, I’ll make some observations and leave it at that.

First observation: kids are resilient. They don’t need their families to be happy and perfect all the time. In fact some strife and tension is good for kids, especially when that strife is resolved and the love is there. So I’d make sure that you two explain to your child or children, even before you are sure they can understand it, that things will be all right and that you love each other and that you’re rooting for daddy to get through this tough time and that you’re sure he will. Give kids the message not that disturbances will never occur, but that they will blow over. The fact that you’ve figured out why this stuff happens is critical and revelatory, and I’m sure that as much as it helps you it will also help your family.

Second observation: math communities are not much more likely than other communities to understand or accept people with mental health problems. Math people have their quirks, and it’s possible that they are somewhat more likely to have mental health problems – and if you believe Hollywood depictions of us, we are much more likely – but when it comes to compassion and empathy I don’t think we’re there. In fact I might argue that we are a bit more on the Aspy spectrum than your usual crowd, and that makes us less empathetic in general about other kinds of mental health issues. I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not surprised your husband is having trouble talking about this at work.

My final, very very practical observation is that if you keep close track of the dosage, and the environment, and various life events, then you might be able to track the illness and find patterns that will help you balance the symptoms with the ability to do research. Another approach might be to research ways to help him realize his research potential while fully dosed – after all, his intelligence is still there. Maybe it would help to go for a brisk walk first thing in the morning and then spend 3 hours alone with a notepad? You probably already tried that, but I’m just saying you can optimize within any given set of constraints.

Again, I have no qualifications for this advice, so talk to professionals. I’m just a practical-minded person.

Finally, good luck! I’m really proud of you guys, and you in particular for leaving finance.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I just read this article about a group of insects with “female penes.” This question is two-fold: First, how would human sexuality be different if women penetrated men and forcibly extracted their sperm to impregnate themselves? Secondly, what sort of ramifications will this have on porn? (Is there already female + penis, male + vagina porn out there?)

Also, please feel free to give a scathing remark to the researcher who comments that females with penes are more “macho” than other females. Ugh.

Person Of Random News

Dear PORN,

I deeply love this article, and your sign-off, and you as a person. You have made me happy, PORN.

Readers! You now have a standard to live up to! Please take note of the perfect Aunt Pythia question.

My favorite line in the article is where a researcher describes the findings as “really, really exciting.” Also, this on the side of the article:

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 7.36.34 AM

Pretty much everything about this article is a hoot.

And look, I realize that human females typically don’t have penises – at least until they buy them (update! by this I meant strap-ons! I had no intention of being cissexist and apologies if that’s how it came off) – but in terms of sucking sperm out of the men in order to get pregnant, that’s pretty much what all my girlfriends do once they want kids. Tell me if I’m wrong, ladies. It’s a matter of perspective of course, but there you have it. There are really more commonalities than differences here.

As for the macho comment, I think that’s kind of dumb and/or tautological. Macho just means manly, and for most people, manliness is at least confounded with, if not defined by, the presence of a penis. So if a woman has a penis, people are going to say she’s macho, especially if said penis has been built to last 70 hours and has spikes. HOLY SHIT! Tell me that’s not “really, really exciting.”

Bring it on, PORN! More articles, please!

Aunt Pythia


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

Categories: Aunt Pythia
  1. Boris
    May 10, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Re taxes, I fail to see the point of the articles like the one Guy mentioned. Obviously, the majority of the target audience do not understand even the basics of the tax code, and even if they do, the articles don’t link to the original document, so it’s difficult to answer any “how does that work” questions. Yet the apparently low effective rate is sure to upset people.

    Also, to correct Aunt Pythia, the depreciation is not a one-time accounting trick. The home is a rental property, so it’s effectively a separate business. By law, you are required to depreciate business property every year. (Lest you are worried that the property escapes taxes this way, worry not: the difference between the market value and the depreciated value will be taxed at the time of disposition of property.) Similarly, mortgage interest on that property is a business expense, so it is correct to deduct it from that business’s revenue.

    That’s why, even while their total income is over 200k, their adjusted income is 165ish. And 165ish is the fair number to use: it is incorrect to tax revenues, only profits.

    Even so, 8 percent effective rate on 165ish income seems a bit low, but impossible to tell why without looking at the actual returns. There might be a mortgage interest deduction for their primary residence – and there I would definitely agree with you that it’s a ridiculous deduction and has to go.


    • May 10, 2014 at 9:43 am

      Thanks for the correction and clarification! Yet another question I am unqualified to answer 🙂


  2. Laurent
    May 10, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Isn’t “Hoping it’s a nonexclusive decision, life or work” Hi and low?


  3. kpedro88
    May 11, 2014 at 1:13 am

    I think you missed the best sign-off this week!

    Hoping it’s a nonexclusive decision, life or work -> HI AND LOW


  4. Recovering Banker
    May 12, 2014 at 3:49 am

    Re: Female Penes: Have you read Dr Tatiana’s Sex Advice to All Creation? Scores of bizarre sex practices, in an advice column format…


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