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Aunt Pythia’s advice

September 12, 2015

Have you guys read the recent NY Times book review of three new sex and romance books? The books are called ‘Date-Onomics,’ ‘The Sex Myth,’ and ‘Modern Romance,’ and I have very strong opinions about them – surprise, surprise! – based only on the review.

Date-Onomics is premised on finding love by crunching the numbers and by assuming that all women are looking to snag a “good man” no matter what. Simplistic, but then again there are certainly numbers to consider, and the fact that more women than men attend college is definitely at odds with the way men don’t like to marry women who earn more than they do. And yes, I framed that to be an intentionally controversial way of looking at it.

Next, in the Sex Myth, they investigate the switch from everyone being a prude a short while ago to everyone supposedly – but not actually – being a kinkmeister now, and how we’d be better off not identifying ourselves so much with our sex lives. Also simplistic, since sex is a central aspect to our human identity. It’s not as if in the past we didn’t really care about each other’s sex lives; it’s just that sex lives were way more stifled. Name a moment in human history that we didn’t obsess and gossip about who was having sex with whom. I bet you can’t. Instead, I want us to have more than just sex as identities. It’s obviously terrible to only rely on your sex appeal, especially as you age and are suddenly unfuckable.

The third book reviewed is Modern Romance, and it seems to argue that we sometimes get carried away with the numbers and the seemingly endless options we have on the dating scene and forget to appreciate the humanity in each other. Also simplistic, because if you are the only person stopping to smell the roses, you will get trampled from behind. It’s a collective action problem, and a cultural problem.


OK, on with the advice! And after you enjoy said advice, please:

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,

I was reading Flash Boys (I know I’m a bit late to the game!) and was wondering if you might comment a bit on its accuracy as well as how you feel about IEX? I’m very tempted to believe Lewis/Katsuyama, but after watching some videos of them together with people vehemently denying all claims in the book I have become a bit hesitant. I was hoping your insider knowledge would be helpful! Thanks for your time.

Not Smart Enough To Know


Here’s the thing, it doesn’t really matter. For a few reasons, among them:

  1. The harm that was done by that whole scam, which is totally believable, is pretty small in terms of the trillions sloshing around in the market.
  2. There are plenty of other scams going on just like it. That’s what finance people do.
  3. It doesn’t affect the public nearly as much as the big stuff did like the financial crisis.

Putting all that together, who cares. I mean, Lewis is a great writer, and he tells a great story, but this time I think he just kind of randomly chose the good guys and bad guys and convinced everyone something terrible was going on because it sells books, when in fact it’s business as usual in the world of high frequency trading. If we could get rid of HFT altogether, that would be great, but that’s not what seems to be happening.

My two cents.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I want to apply for an assistant professor job at a particular university. This school has the overall department split into sub-departments and two of the sub-departments have openings for next year. My research could apply to either of the sub-departments, but the same person is listed as the search coordinator for both positions, so there is no way that it will not be noticed if I apply for both jobs. Is it “bad form” to apply for two jobs in the same department? Or do I have to pick just one?

Under Decision Paralysis

Dear UDP,

Hey, great news! You are qualified for not one but two jobs at the same place! Use it as an advantage. Apply for both, and in each cover letter mention that you’re applying for both, and that what this means is that your research will unite the two sub-departments and create synergies that everyone will really enjoy. Moreover, you’re sure you’d be incredibly happy taking either job. It doesn’t matter if the same people read your folders or not: assume not, but be the first person to frame the way to think of this as good news.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

How can we get America to not focus on the ‘hero’? I believe that this libertarian view has made the ‘winner take all’ acceptable. Those of us still employed are noticing that since only the ‘best’ are hired, there is no 2nd tier support staff, and we have to be do several jobs (thanks, computers).

Waiting For The Implosion

Dear WFTI,

Aunt Pythia hears you loud and clear. Did you hear about the new Harvard Business School report, where the alums they surveyed agreed that we should work on combatting inequality, the biggest problem of our day? Well, it might not surprised you to hear that they also said that the way to combat these problems are tax reforms and streamlined regulation, in other words stuff that will actually exacerbate it.

The answer is, I’m not sure. The way humans work is we care about individual stories. That’s why stuff got going about Syrian refugees after the picture of the little boy washed up on the beach. I guess what we need to do is make sure the individual stories we hear about are examples of larger issues important to a lot of people, rather than just aspirational hero-worshipping schlock.

Aunt Pythia


Dear Aunt Pythia,

I am a professional woman in my mid 30s, no kids, although I don’t mind if others choose have them, preferably responsibly.

Over the past few years, I have become friends with several members of a large family where both parents are immigrants. The mother, despite circumstances, has encouraged her children and herself to become educated and start businesses. They live in a remote small town, but come to the city often for social and business events.

My question concerns their 20 year old son “Alex”. Like several of his siblings, he was home schooled, though he has yet to finish an official program or pass the GED. I’ve offered to tutor him, but he hasn’t accepted. Alex can be very motivated about some things and has lots of ideas, but he seems to dream more than do, and has not looked for a job outside of helping his parents with their ventures.

So, recently, rather than “nagging” Alex about getting a GED or job, I’ve switched tactics to asking him what he wants to do and how he plans to get there. He’s pretty receptive to ideas but rarely takes action. Last week, when I asked him what he wanted in life, he said “20 kids!” I thought he was joking, but he seems to think he can go back to his father’s country, where he will not only be entitled to a bride, but also to her sheep, goats, and house. So, now what? How can I encourage Alex to work towards a dream that helps him become independent before bringing somebody or many somebodies into the mix?

20 Questions

Dear 20 Questions,

Talk about a cultural difference! It seems like these kids haven’t entirely left their home country. Home schooling is obviously part of that, but also the fact that the he is working in the family business doesn’t help.

Even so, he’s made friends with you, and you’re concerned. I think you should continue to be his friend, and help him think through what his future might be like. Would he want to bring his wife and 20 kids to the states? How would he support them? Stuff like that, which he might not have thought about. I would guess you could help him plan, and you may have some influence on his plans by doing so, but I don’t think you can change his plans entirely. But it sounds like you’re already doing this, so I would say, keep it up!

Also, keep in mind he’s only 20, and lots of things in his life will change before he actually has 20 kids, if he ever does.

Aunt Pythia


Readers? Aunt Pythia loves you so much. She wants to hear from you – she needs to hear from you – and then tell you what for in a most indulgent way. Will you help her do that?

Please, pleeeeease ask her a question. She will take it seriously and answer it if she can.

Click here for a form for later or just do it now:

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. JSE
    September 12, 2015 at 4:18 pm

    I liked _Modern Romance_ a lot. Largely because Ansari could have just written a book with a lot of jokey dating stories, and instead he did more than he had to do and wrote a book with some real content, and also jokey dating stories.


  2. kpedro88
    September 15, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Unrelated to this week’s advice: here’s a good resource on futurism for you, today’s AMA with Dr. Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute. https://www.reddit.com/r/Futurology/comments/3l1jqs/i_am_a_researcher_at_the_future_of_humanity/


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