Counting the bottles of beer

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By John Pawlak

 The first week of April brings a welcomed break to students in our school district.  During the nearly two weeks off, they get to spend time thinking those deep thoughts that usually command a young student’s mind.  You know, things like “Uh, what do you want to do today?”
  Thinking about the present can be a daunting task, especially if you make the mistake of thinking about something that actually takes neural energy.  Why not spend that time doing something more comfortable, less complicated, more productive.  For example, how about counting to fifty thousand?
  Counting to fifty thousand, productive? Well, I can think of worse things to do.  But for now, let’s just count to fifty thousand.  I’ll start you off and when you’ve finished, you can keep reading.
  One two three four five six.  Is that enough to get you going?  OK, a few more, but I can’t hang out with you all day walking you through this task.  Seven eight nine ten eleven twelve thirteen fourteen fifteen sixteen.  
  Yeah, I know, I know.  Why are eleven and twelve such weird words?  And what’s with thirteen and fifteen?  Why not threeteen and fiveteen?
  Sorry about that.  It’s easy to get distracted when counting to fifty thousand.  Where were we?  Seventeen.  Eighteen.
  While you count out the rest of the numbers, I’ll go make myself a cup of coffee.  Well, several hundred cups of coffee actually.
  Fifty thousand is a pretty big number, isn’t it?  Singing “Fifty thousand bottles of beer on the wall” can be a fairly arduous job, especially if you actually take each one down and pass it around.
  Fifty thousand seems to take on an even more monumental stance when one puts a dollar sign in front of it.  The U.S. military recently announced that the families of the 17 people killed in Afghanistan by Staff. Sgt. Bales will each receive $50,000 compensation.
 The spokesperson for the military emphasized that this payment was “significant” and “substantial.”  Given that the average annual income in Afghanistan is $425, fifty thousand does seem to be a hefty amount.
  Indeed, fifty thousand dollars can be the start of something big.  Back in 1980, Bill Gates bought the rights for QDOS for $50,000.  MS-DOS, the operating system that spawned Microsoft, was based on QDOS.  A nice return on investment, eh?
  So maybe that’s what someone was thinking when they purchased Natalie Portman’s dress (worn at the 2012 Oscars) for $50,000.  Is this the beginning of yet another multibillion dollar company?  Microdress?
  Mark Levin, likewise, jumped into the investment fray, offering a $50,000 donation to the Obama Super PAC for the opportunity to debate President Obama.  A man like Levin who calls President Obama’s administration “the evisceration of individual freedom and installation of authoritarian collectivism” is certainly someone I would love to listen to in a debate.  Of course, it would sound a lot better if I first stuffed a few dozen Cheetos in my ears.
  One hundred forty four.  One hundred forty five.  One hundred forty six.
  Oh, are you still counting?  The timing of this column is painfully apropos to what we can and cannot count on.  As of the end of March, the National Debt is slightly more than $15.6 trillion (if you consider $25 billion to be slightly more).  With some 312 million people in our country, this equates to approximately $50,000 per citizen.  Have you finished counting to 50,000?
  Well, you can count on things getting worse.  The National Debt is increasing at approximately $4 billion a day.  So it takes 1.08 seconds for the debt to increase by $50,000.  Still counting?
  Every four years, politicians suddenly become “aware” of this growing problem and each side of the fence promises to do something about it.  The one thing you can truly count on is that neither side will.
  Have a nice Spring break kids!  One day you’ll be running this country and we’re counting on you to fix it.  
  Now, where were we?  Toss me another bottle!  Two hundred and one.  Two hundred and two.  Two hundred and three.
 John Pawlak
Los Alamos Columnist