Home > Uncategorized > Aunt Pythia’s and Uncle Aristippus’ advice

Aunt Pythia’s and Uncle Aristippus’ advice

April 18, 2015

Readers, Aunt Pythia has an amazing guest philosopher here with her today in sunny Berkeley, a paradise on earth and home to the Kouign Amann:

The Bay Area's answer to the cronut.

The Bay Area’s answer to the cronut. Plus they’re sexy if you look at them right.

His name is Aristippus, and he claims to be the inventor of hedonism. We’ll be the judges of that, though, shall we? His philosophy dictates a lifestyle in which he consumes delicious pastries and quality coffee on a daily basis, takes long walks by the Bay, and meets new and interesting people while basking in hot tubs. He loves you all, assuming you do not give him reason to stop.

I hope you enjoy Uncle Aristippus, and afterwards don’t forget to:

    ask Aunt Pythia a question 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.


Hi Aunt Pythia,

I have recently started to masturbate in front of my partner of 10 years. It’s something I have done before with other partners but not a lot.

On Saturday night we went out and got drunk we came home and ended up in bed, I went down on her as usual and she came a couple of times then I wanted to wank in front of her. We kissed and she touched me as I masturbated, I love it and find it so erotic. I pushed her hand between her legs and she started to masturbate in front of me, something she has never done before. I watched and finished myself off, with her watching me it was so good.

I now feel a little awkward in front of her, like this was a place we should never have gone, like it’s dirty or she may feel it’s dirty but just does it for me? I know I should ask her about it but I am too shy.

Your advice and advice from other would be welcome.

Horny UK

Dear Horny,

I’m really beginning to wonder if Aunt Pythia has just become a place where people test out their erotic writing chops. I mean, here you are, with an awesome girlfriend who is game for your deepest, dirtiest desire – not so deep, and not so dirty, I might add – and there’s really nothing wrong, and no question in sight, so you made one up. My only real advice is: “it was so good” might need some elaboration.

Aunt Pythia

Friend Horny,

I’m somewhat at a loss for words. Taking your question completely at face value, I can only suggest that you do the obvious: talk to your mate. You’ve been together ten years, you say? It’s wonderful you two are still having regular, mutually satisfying sex, even if you think sharing masturbation is dirty or kinky. Many people do that long before they have sex (my initial reaction to your letter was, “Wait, it took you ten years?”).

If this is an activity you enjoy, but that makes you uncomfortable, you have three choices. First, become desensitized and unlearn the discomfort, so you guys can just enjoy each other’s bodies without feeling that shame. Second, learn to actually enjoy the discomfort – there are definitely people who get off on doing things that feel transgressive or shameful, and if that’s you, there’s nothing wrong with that. Your kink is not my kink, but your kink is OK too! Third, well, give up masturbating in front of each other and find some other kink to enjoy. There are plenty to choose from!



Dear Aunt Pythia,

Perhaps you would indulge a break from the “Page Six” titillations to direct your prophetic vision to a math study question. Kind of like a word from our sponsor, MathBabe.

In reading this outstanding post which primarily deals with the eventual delights of not knowing, mention was also made of “Silverman and Tate,” and how it extricated you from the slough of despond. I too had tumbled into that dreaded mire (although I had substantially less to fall).

I immediately took the advice and was similarly uplifted.

So here is my question. Any mention of “Silverman and Tate” is quick to point out, pejoratively, that it is but an easy, undergraduate text. I did find it quite accessible. Now I would like to go further in studying elliptic curves. In that pursuit, I got a copy of Cassels “Lectures on EC.” I thought this would be a well-conceived next step, as one comment I saw characterized it as a “high-brow Silverman and Tate.”

But I find it difficult. Perhaps because it is quite pithy – forgive the eponymous remark. Actually my difficulties with it go far beyond that. This is one of many similar experiences I have had where standard undergrad texts (e.g., Dummit & Foote, Axler “Linear Algebra Done Right” -yuck, even the early parts of “Ireland & Rosen”) go quite well, yet Lang, “Atayah & Macdonald”, etc. are impenetrable. Plus I find it much more enjoyable to study math in action as in “S&T” rather than a catalog of definitions, theorems, and proofs. (Although some proofs are quite symphonic.)

I am a self-studier with no real math education. And I am willing to put in the work. I am in need of advice as to how to progress.

Pilgrim’s (Lack Of) Progress

Dear PLOP,

It’s a language! You can’t just read it, you need to learn how to speak it. Seriously, very few people can just pick up a graduate text in math and understand it. It’s not a bad sign, nor is it a failure.

I’d recommend meeting up with others who are also trying to learn this stuff, and finding online resources where you can see people using this stuff. Math Overflow is also a great resource. A quick YouTube search exposes hundreds of relevant lectures. I’m sure there are also podcasts you might consider (look at this list of math podcasts for example).

Keep at it, that stuff is gorgeous!


Auntie P

Wise PLOP,

Aristippus is afraid he cannot help you with this problem, as he failed at being a real mathematician, and went off to do applied statistics instead.

Love and apologies,


Dear Aunt Pythia,

You are all-knowing and all-seeing.

What should I think about Amazon Sales Rank figures for my Kindle books? I have only known about them since Thursday. I read a Kindle book by Steve Scott about Kindle books and so I created an Author Page in Amazon. From there, I saw the Sales Rank figures (obviously, a Big Data product). From the Amazon Author Page, I saw the link to Nielson BookScan and saw the sales figures for my hardback book (someone I know from Weight Watchers said “Oh, a coffee table book”).

Lost in Space

Dear Lost,

I have no idea. I have never looked at my Amazon sales rank. Wait, I just did. 12,215. I have no idea what that means.

If I had to guess what that means, I’d say they take a time window – maybe 48 hours – and count how many copies of books have been sold, and simply rank them in order. If they made it too much longer than 48 hours, it would not be sensitive to new hits, and if they made it too much shorter, it would be too volatile. Twitter has a kind of metric like this to define “what’s trending,” and it’s a wee bit more complicated but that’s the gist.

Aunt Pythia

Comrade LIS,

I have known and loved a few authors. Although Aunt Pythia seems to be immune to the fever, all of other writers I’ve known well fell victim, at one time or another, to a mania for checking their sales rank, feeling delighted if it improved, and despondent if it declined. But ultimately they got perspective, and realized it was more important to them to get back to writing their next book, and cash any royalty checks that came in from volumes that had earned out their advance.

So, to be frank, my advice would be to emulate Pythia’s example: don’t think about it at all.



Dear Aunt Pythia,

What is your opinion of the pickup artist community? A few of my friends (with severe social anxiety) are obsessed with pickup, crediting it for their newfound confidence and ability to talk to women. They see it as a tool for self-improvement and their dedication is almost stoic, but I see it as misogynistic and myopic.

I am happy to see my friends overcoming their fears, but am torn about the method. What are your thoughts?

Silently Torn


I have some opinions! You may not be surprised to hear this! In fact I already wrote them down more than two years ago, here. And if I do say so myself, that’s some sound advice I gave back then.

As for your friends, I’m not sure if the “you’ve overfit” argument will hold water for them. They are just so excited to finally feel in control and to get laid that nothing will penetrate (har har) their consciousness except if it stops working. I’d suggest laying off hanging out with them until they become humans.


Auntie P

Quiet Thomas,

My own advice parallels Pythia’s fairly closely. Having once been a nerdy, introverted young man who had difficulty talking to the objects of my desire, I understand the appeal of the PUA community. But I think its casting of dating and mating as adversarial, and its embrace of concepts like “friendzoning,” are counter-productive, at least if your goal is a long-term, collaborative, companionate relationship.

And while PUA tactics may serve the goal of getting laid on a regular basis, there are better ways – you can get laid on a regular basis while retaining your dignity and self-respect. As to how, making yourself as intellectually and physically attractive as you reasonably can is certainly important step. Finding and contributing to a community that emphasizes sexual freedom helps a lot. In particular, if you’re a straight man, you should aim to build a culture that neither shames women for their desires nor pressures them to serve anyone else’s. Straight women’s sexual liberation is greatly to your benefit. I also have thoughts on where you can find this type of community, but that’s perhaps beyond the scope of this letter.

One point I might add to Aunt Pythia’s thoughts above: If your friends do still seem to have issues with social anxiety in situations outside of pickup bars, and you’re close enough friends that it would not be intrusive, you might suggest that talking with an actual licensed therapist about that. Social anxiety can interfere with their friendships and careers, not just their efforts to get their wicks dipped. It’s worth addressing this problem at the root, rather than trying to band-aid it with fancy hats and rote conversational routines.



Congratulations, you’ve wasted yet another Saturday morning with Aunt Pythia and Uncle Aristippus! I hope you’re satisfied, you could have made progress on that project instead.

But as long as you’re already here, please ask me a question. And don’t forget to make an amazing sign-off, they make us very very happy.

Click here for a form or just do it now:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. toto
    April 18, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    Kouign Amann is from France (Bretagne to be precise) and although it is absolutely delicious it will, without doubt, kill you !


  2. EllipticCurveLover
    April 18, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    I have a few suggestions/thoughts for PLOP. First, it’s great that you are interested in elliptic curves, they are a wonderful entry point to a ton of interesting mathematics (algebraic geometry, complex analysis, representation theory, computational complexity, cryptography, and all sorts of number theory).

    Second, just to echo/amplify what MathBabe said, the key to reading a book like Atiyah/MacDonald is to realize that it’s really all about doing the exercises — this is where you learn to speak the language. In fact,I would view the definitions/lemmas/theorems/etc… as just reference material that will help you solve the problems, which should be your primary focus. Mathematical definitions mean nothing until you actually use them in anger, i.e. to solve a problem (and I mean “you” not the author — watching someone else use them is not the same as using them yourself). If you found Dummit & Foote smooth sailing, you should have no trouble mastering Atiyah/MacDonald (indeed, a lot of the material is even covered in Dummit & Foote). The difference is that in Dummit & Foote you can often get away with watching the author solve the problems whereas in Atiyah/MacDonald (and really any math book past the 101 version of the subject), it’s all on you. Solving problems on your own without anyone to talk to can be a tough slog, but there are now a lot of online resources you can access (however, given what you have said,I would recommend Math Stack Exchange over MathBabe’s suggestion of Math Overflow, the latter is focused on research level questions whereas the former is dedicated to people who are still learning their subjects).

    Third, I can give some specific suggestions for learning more about elliptic curves. There are online course notes and problem sets for MIT’s undergraduate course on elliptic curves that might be of interest you, and the syllabus includes a bunch of references (see http://math.mit.edu/classes/18.783/syllabus.html). I think Washington’s book is pretty good (it is at an intermediate level between Silverman-Tate and Silverman’s two books), as is Milne’s (a little more advanced, but Milne is really an engaging writer and the whole book is available on line for free). I also *love* Cox’s book, which may be right up your alley.

    But you might start by looking through the lecture notes for the course. They look more or less self-contained and pretty accessible. And the problem sets look quite interesting — a lot of them involve the computer algebra system Sage (and the spiffy new SageMathCloud, see https://cloud.sagemath.com), which knows a surprising amount about elliptic curves.


  3. April 18, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Did you go to the Cheeseboard in Berkeley on Shattuck near Vine? Absolutely fantastic food and a socialist’s utopia.


    • April 18, 2015 at 10:26 pm

      Love that place. No but I went across the street to Chez Panisse!


      • April 18, 2015 at 10:40 pm

        You 1%er!!!!

        Tried to get reservations at Chez Panisse after older daughter got hooded in Hearst Greek Theater a few years back, but alas others had the idea before me and had to settle for the scenic restaurant by the water, Skates. Gorgeous views is all I can say about the food there.


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