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Aunt Pythia’s Advice

July 4, 2015

Readers!! Dear friends! Aunt Pythia is overwhelmed with happiness. She is currently sitting in the middle of the woods scribbling away inefficiently on an android tablet, doing her best to deliver a knock-out advice column for your reading pleasure. It’s absolutely nuts that she can accomplish this fear considering her environment, but that’s just how much she loves you.


Definitely not as hot as Manhattan.

Please enjoy being rustic with Aunt Pythia!

Oh, and before you leave,

ask Aunt Pythia any question at all 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,

Do you dream of composing the perfect Aunt Pythia question, complete with awesome sign-off? I guess you don’t, but maybe you have the same issue with Dan Savage?

That’s my problem. I just can’t stop obsessing and find myself so jealous of the problems of others. Why can’t I be “an intellectual property lawyer, who is launching a big data business with a former colleague/lover, who has just given up lesbianism and decided to become a man, and who can’t quite decide on how to deal with her residual feelings of attraction for said business partner”?

Or, what about wanting to be able to write “I’m completing my junior year majoring in Clown and, while I would love to go to graduate school, just feel I don’t measure up against my classmates who are so ahead they’re already working on Advanced Buffoonery  and researching theoretical foundations integrating hijinks, pratfalls, and farce. I feel like a Paul Reubens amidst all these future Lucys. Can I make it?”

With awesome problems like those, how can my mundane life make it onto the hallowed pixels of an AP page? I’m afraid I’m going to start creating a mini-crisis in my life, just to have some entertaining material for you. Help!

Lousy Sign-off Doesn’t Trump Really Interesting Person


I just can’t believe I figured out how to copy and paste on a tablet. Very excited over here.

Great sign off by the way. I get the impression it’s accurate as well.

Here’s the thing. You don’t need complicated problems. Asking how to feel happy or even non suicidal in the midst of everyday life is already hard and interesting. And I would prefer genuine kindness over being entertained any day.

As for the question of whether I dream of asking question, no. I have always wanted to give advice more than ask it. Probably a personality defect but there it is.

Aunt Pythia

Aunt Pythia,

I have a math question. I am writing a series of short stories, based the Many-worlds theory of Quantum Mechanics. The stories postulate (in contrast to current theory, science fiction, you know) that there is a way to pass information between universes. Naturally in an infinite number of universes, some, an infinite number, use this technology, like painting, photography, writing, mosaics, film, TV, and the Internet, for porn.

My questions is, if the resolution of every quantum event creates at least two new universes, what is the cardinality of that infinity? It seems like aleph-null but it’s been a long time since my last legitimate use of infinities.

No cats were harmed in the forming of this question.

Slim Odds And Possible

Dear SOAP,

Is this the day for weird questions? I mean don’t you need to tell me what a quantum event is and how often to expect a quantum event? Does it happen every time someone passes porn between universes? Even if that is the case I would need to know there are a positive number of horny people in existence.

Unless I am being dumb, I don’t have sufficient information here.

Aunt Pythia


Aunt Pythia,

I think I’m in love with my best friend. She told me about a year ago that she wasn’t interested in romantic relationships because her ex-boyfriend hurt her / she hurt him / they had a bad breakup. I haven’t told her my feelings, because of a variety of reasons, including I wanted to tell her in person (we live on opposite coasts of the US), I don’t want to hurt her (she is going through some serious stuff right now, and I don’t want to add to that), I have literally zero romantic experience and I don’t want to fuck things up with her (I kind of feel like I’m going to fuck up my first few relationships), and last but not least I’m bad at talking. We’re going to college together next fall. I want to tell her at some point in the future, because of some kind of honesty idea and also it seems unfair to try and get rid of these feelings without asking her. What do you think I should do?

Having Equanimous Love Problem

Dear HELP,

First of all thanks for the perfect sign off and straight forward letter. Although not sure you are equanimous.

Next, believe me, you are in love. No need to say you think maybe you are. Babe, you got it bad.

Third, you want to tell her because love demands it of us. It has nothing to do with a sense of honesty or fairness. Love has its own logic, or illogic, and we are slaves to it. That’s OK.

Seeing as you asked, I say go for it. Make it happen my friend. Which is to say: tell her you love her in a dramatic and romantic and absolutely unmistakable way. Be that guy who really spills out his guts and lays it on the table.

You know what there isn’t enough of nowadays? I’ll tell you what. Gut spilling. We are all so careful not to offend or appear vulnerable we forget that none of that really matters. What really matters is living life fully and taking chances and going out on a limb and being the person you always wanted to be.

And here’s the thing about it. It’s not really a risk. If she says no you will be crushed, to be sure, but in fact you will be crushed if you say nothing. It will just take longer and feel less courageous. Also she’s your best friend so I imagine we can trust her not to be cruel.

Tell me how it goes, and good luck!

Aunty P

P.s. nobody has experience at your age.
P.P.s. if you’re worried about talking then write a letter of a song or a poem.
P.P.P.s. ignore her bad ex. Everyone gets over their bad exes eventually. Plus it’s been a year. Don’t ignore her current problems though. Just tell her how much you want to be there for her.


Aunt Pythia,

We clearly have a long way to go still for getting more girls and women into STEM careers, but there has been a lot of progress as well. For example, my department has a pretty M/F balanced group of faculty and grad students. I also notice there are various programs and events for women and minorities in mathematics, which appear to build some lasting professional relationships and you know, like,  friendships.

My gripe is that many of these programs are *exclusively* intended for women, leaving minority men, especially black men, out in the cold while universities are patting themselves on the back for publicly fulfilling their diversity initiatives. I don’t think there’s a great conspiracy behind this, just that there aren’t very man black men in STEM fields, particularly math, to let everyone know- Hey! We’re here too!!

Comparatively, women, black women, uh literally any other group you could reasonably get higher education statistics on, is doing better than we are. Most of these programs aren’t helping us, and I know of none specifically designed for us. You probably know the statistics better than I do, but according to this article [http://chronicle.com/article/Black-Man-in-the-Lab/149565/] from 1992-2012 there were only 203 black men that got math PhDs. Wait, in 20 FUCKING YEARS?? Please be a typo. One black guy per year in the ENTIRE COUNTRY has been getting a math PhD for two decades…? JESUS CHRIST ON A STICK, THAT’S SOME FUCKERY, PLAIN AND SIMPLE. No really, I have to be making some kind of error somewhere.

Of course, these are just averages; the actual count probably is trending upward and probably increasingly so from 2012-2015. JUST NO, VOICE OF STEADINESS AND REASON, TODAY YOU CAN STFU, YOUR SERVICES ARE NOT NEEDED. Why? For one, these numbers include graduates of historically black colleges and universities, which are disproportionately represented. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing, but if a sizeable chunk of the 203 PhDs are concentrated in these schools, then of course the rest have fewer than expected PhDs produced, and the baseline was already at WTF.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but as black guy interested in math, I don’t want to go to the black school I want to go to the math school; no offense to Howard, but I’m aiming for Harvard. The article then says, for all STEM degrees combined, there was an upward trend from black men making up 1% of all PhDs awarded in ’92 to 2% in ’12. If you have no soul, you can convince people of improvement by saying it doubled, but it’s still really, really fucked. So (finally) my question is: Given the obvious need, why isn’t there a program similar to Edge for men in math from underrepresented groups?

P.S. Who lets the mathematicians of the African diaspora website remain on the internet? It’s hella embarrassing.


Dear Randomblackdude,

I’m with you. Those are some outrageously low numbers. And I don’t know what resources there are out there but clearly not enough. Maybe my readers will fill us in. Also agreed about people who deliberately mislead with statistics having no soul.

Aunt Pythia


People, people! Aunt Pythia loves you so much. And she knows that you love her. She feels the love. She really really does.

Well, here’s your chance to spread your Aunt Pythia love to the world! Please ask her a question. She will take it seriously and answer it if she can.

Click here for a form or just do it now:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. Jennifer Hendricks
    July 4, 2015 at 10:53 am

    Way back when I was in college (1992) I went to a summer program at Mills College for women interested in going to grad school in math. There was a parallel program at Berkeley for minority students. The programs were somewhat different, and I remember there being women of color in both programs. Might be worth seeing if it still exists at Berkeley and/or if the faculty involved are still teaching and where.


  2. Stephan
    July 4, 2015 at 12:16 pm

    @randomblackdude If you do not know it already, have a look at CAARMS, the Conference for African-American Researchers in the Mathematical Sciences: http://www.caarms.net/home.aspx. Bill Massey is doing a wonderful job. They have also more detailed numbers on math PhD on their website.


  3. Alastair McInnic
    July 6, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    “You probably know the statistics better than I do, but according to this article [http://chronicle.com/article/Black-Man-in-the-Lab/149565/] from 1992-2012 there were only 203 black men that got math PhDs. Wait, in 20 FUCKING YEARS?? Please be a typo. One black guy per year in the ENTIRE COUNTRY has been getting a math PhD for two decades…?”

    203/20 ~= 10 black math PhDs per year. Does that make you feel better?


  4. Jonnie
    July 7, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    THANK YOU randomblackdude, but I’m brown. Anybody, please share your hispanic, black or other minority-focused math programs and resources. I am in Arizona, the blight of the US education system, and would really appreciate any feedback.


  5. Stephan
    July 10, 2015 at 4:23 am

    @Jonnie Do you know about SACNAS? https://sacnas.org


    • Jonnie
      July 10, 2015 at 3:57 pm

      i did not, thank you Stephan!


  6. Auros
    July 13, 2015 at 4:20 am

    I dunno, Aunt Pythia, from what I’ve seen dramatic romantic gestures rarely work, as a way of launching a relationship. They’re fun with an established partner, but if you’re not certain the other person is already into you, they tend to dramatically backfire. He’d likely nuke the friendship, along with any prospect of romance. If he wants a shot at the romance, being open about his feelings, but in a way that actually comes across as equanimous, is a lot more likely to work. People don’t like to date people who seem like they’re unhinged / obsessed / unable to calmly take “no” (or even “not now”) for an answer.


    • July 13, 2015 at 7:25 am

      Well I didn’t suggest he act unhinged. But you might be right that being too intense would likely backfire.


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