by  Sam C. Chan

February 15, 2006

In memory of Aunt Anne

11/28/07Last 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 deceptions...

Then, the subject of "subjects" came up and we were all reciting the "-ology" 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 micro-orgasms!"an obvious slip-of-tongue.

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 and 106, or a millionth and a million, which is exactly a trillion** times ratio, or 12 orders of magnitude, in scientific terms.

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 courte) system.

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