In memory of Aunt Anne
Last week, I just learnt of the recent
passing of aunt Anne. I dedicate this anecdotal tale to her. May
she rest in peace.
I'm about to tell you a true story...
In early 2003, I was over at my friend's house for a Jewish holiday dinner. I was
sitting at the dinner table with him, his wife and son. And, there was aunt
Anne. Aunt Anne is a very proper lady, originally from Scotland.
The second gulf war was about to begin. I was expressing my dismay that
Colin Powell, the only sane and relatively honest person* in the (then) current
administration, was being put in the "political icebox" and barred from public
view, whenever he tried to speak the truth, or even take a more moderate
stance. BBC & NPR reports and many domestic intellectuals were
pointing out how things just don't add up, with numerous signs of
Then, the subject of "subjects" came up and we were all reciting the
words. My friend was explaining to his 7-year
old son: Microbiology is the study of microorganisms. He mentioned that he has a niece who is studying microorganisms. Aunt Anne
responded in excitements: "Really? I too, have a niece that is also studying
The whole table then turned dead silent. Many, many microseconds later,
aunt Anne asked: "Did I just say micro-orgasm?" My friend replied: "You sure
did!" Everyone then bursted into one mega-laugh. It was a really good
thing that nobody had a mouth full at that moment.
I was seriously contemplating saying: "Oh yeah, that was only a micro-orgasm... nothing
earth-shattering to write home about. It wasn't exactly
one of those mega-orgasms." Of
course, that's the difference between 10-6
or a millionth and a million, which is exactly a trillion** times ratio, or 12 orders of magnitude, in scientific
So there you have it: Aunt Anne, accidental dirty joke teller who amused
us all. And, yours truly, geeky scientist doing his micro-mega conversion in
his head, and didn't have the heart to tell aunt Anne, seeing that her face
was already fire engine red!
* Of course, even Colin Powell is known to be
misrepresenting the middle east conflict, in order to be consistent with the
administration's policies and agenda. Nevertheless, he deserves credit for
being the least corrupted and most courageous, among the White House bunch.
** Trillion in "American" system,
or more accurately the French Short Scale (échelle