By BOB URBAN

rurban@tnonline.com

How many zeros in a billion?

I believe there are nine zeros in a billion. But this doesn't really put the amount into proper perspective. It's a million-million. So what? Just numbers on a sheet of paper.

Ever since the current recession began, we've been hearing the term "billions" come up many times, whether it's the amount of money dished out to the struggling lending institutions, the national budget and deficit, the automobile industry, or stimulus packages which don't seem to be helping the job market like they were intended.

So, the next time you hear a politician use the word 'billion' in a casual manner, think about whether you want the 'politicians' spending your tax money.

A billion is a difficult number to comprehend, but one advertising agency did a good job of putting that figure into some perspective in one of it's releases.

For instance:

A billion seconds ago it was 1959.

A billion minutes ago Jesus was alive.

A billion hours ago our ancestors were living in the Stone Age.

A billion days ago no-one walked on the earth on two feet.

A billion dollars ago was only 8 hours and 20 minutes, at the rate our government is spending it.

Let's take a look at New Orleans. It's amazing what you can learn with some simple division.

Louisiana Senator, Mary Landrieu (D) asked Congress for \$250 billion to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Interesting number. What does it mean?

If you are one of the 484,674 residents of New Orleans (every man, woman, and child) you each get \$516,528.

Or, if you have one of the 188,251 homes in New Orleans, your home gets \$1,329,787.

Or... if you are a family of four your family gets \$2,066,012.

Thanks to a contributing reader of this column here are some additional ponderings for the New Year while you're still trying to fathom how much is a billion.

If you mixed vodka with orange juice and milk of magnesia, would you get a Philip's Screwdriver?

Why do we say something is out of whack? What is a whack?

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Why do women wear evening gowns to nightclubs? Shouldn't they be wearing night gowns?

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

When someone asks you, "Apenny for your thoughts," and you put your two cents in, what happens to the other penny?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.

When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person who drives a race car not called a racist?

Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

If horrific means to make horrible, does terrific mean to make terrible?

Why isn't 11 pronounced onety one?

"I am " is reportedly the shortest sentence in theEnglish language. Could it be that "I do " is the longest sentence?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked and dry cleaners depressed?

Do Roman paramedics refer to IV's as "4's"?

Why is it that if someone tells you that there are 1 billion stars in the universe you will believe them, but if they tell you a wall has wet paint you will have to touch it to be sure?

Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?