The Neff Zone column is a weekly feature of the Cadillac News in Cadillac, Michigan. The feature began in 2004 and since then 684 columns have been published. The column appears in the Cadillac News weekend edition each Saturday.
Author - Jim Neff
I am a resident of Cadillac, Michigan. I've written for a variety of publications both in print and online. These include: SKI magazine, Snow Country magazine, the Detroit News, the Chicago Tribune, AAA Living, Skiing Heritage, Traverse City magazine, Traverse magazine, Great Lakes Skier, Michigan Skier, Michigan Runner, Michigan Golfer, SkiNet, and others. In the Neff Zone column I range far and wide to comment on what I find interesting and humorous about the human condition.
As the holidays approach I have a lot of time to think. While other members of my family shop, I am often told to “stand over there and wait.” I can do this with the best of them, but it means I am am often alone with my random thoughts.
What constitutes awesome for one person may not be considered awesome by another person. However, since I am easily entertained, I run across “awesomedudity” on a fairly regular basis.
You made it through Thanksgiving without a significant injury and now it's on to the gauntlet of holiday parties and the requisite chit-chat. The challenge is to remain sociable and inoffensive while at the same time fending off the threat of terminal boredom.
During the past thirteen years, my policy for this column has been to focus on just positive, informative, fun, and (hopefully) entertaining news during the holiday season. This year, however, things in the news have been so contentious that I've decided invoke my policy a week early. “Bah humbug” to bad news for the next seven weeks.
Sometimes you run across things that are confusing and difficult to understand. These items cause you to pause, wrinkle your face, furrow your brow, and scratch your head. I have often been accused of having an intellect rivaled only by garden tools, so this happens to me a lot.
For the past seven decades, no ski season has officially commenced unless you have seen the latest Warren Miller movie. Spectacular visuals punctuated with Miller's trademark witty narration have delighted winter sports audiences all over the globe.
Miller's autobiography, “Freedom Found,” is an insightful look into what made him the “godfather of action-sports film making.”
Do I have a deal for you. My desk and computer are littered with so many factoids they are out of control. Most of these fall under the category of useless information, but a few are actually worth knowing. So, I have decided to clear the decks and have a factoid giveaway. You can have these at no cost which means they are priced just right.
The jobs landscape is moving so fast that anyone who thinks he/she has a magic, long-term, job creation formula is in for a rude awakening.
Do you have pumpkin spice fatigue? Me, too. Enough is enough! I mean, does pumpkin spice really need to be in everything?
Perusing the news recently, I unearthed several things I did not know. I like to store things like this in my cranium so I can roll them out at times when I want to appear to be smarter than I actually am.
From time to time all of us have a bad day. Whenever one happens to me I think back to those thrilling days of yesteryear before the Internet (and even before cassette tapes). Back then, all music came on vinyl records and that was also the case with comedy routines.
I know “hurricanomics” is not a real word. But in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, plus who knows how many more in the two months yet to go in hurricane season, perhaps new terminology needs to be invented. The economic devastation of these storms will affect the entire nation for years to come.
Well kidlings, it's time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. As usual, when we play this game we begin with an item from Big Rob's stomping grounds of Flint.
The new school year is upon us and with that comes news of several education-related topics that merit our attention. Everyone, young and old alike, has a stake in assuring the success of our students.
Once again the last holiday of summer is upon us and that means a final chance for summer picnics, family reunions, end-of-season parties, and beginning-of-season football tailgates. There will inevitably be a lot of conversational chatter going on, so it's important for you to be armed with a host of chit-chat worthy topics that will not inspire a fist fight.
I've recently come across some items in the news that are “new news” to me. Some items are cutting edge, some involve things that are just good to know, and some are sort of humorous.
Sometimes ideas come along that are so monumentally brilliant they have the potential to be life altering. So stunning are these, at some point in the future we all will wonder how we ever got along without these things.
In this era of fake news, it's good to know that facts still exist. So, I burrowed through the semi-massive pile of research in the crate beneath my desk and extracted one small fact from 15 different news articles.
The daily news has something for any interest, but one thing seems to be interesting to everyone – money. There's something about the inflow and outflow of cash that causes our radar to go on full alert.
You might be interested in some new old school tech. You know, things that might actually be useful to you, as opposed to things your grandchild is positive you “need” but you can live happily without.
Well kidlings, it's time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction.
In his latest book, “Renewing The Balance,” Dirk Dunbar challenges readers to deeply consider how “many of us are out of balance with the world inside and around us.”
The Fourth of July is the first big official holiday of summer and for many it is also the beginning of the vacation season. Americans will be traveling all over the place in a mad rush to relax. This fits in with a new poll just out that found the number one thing Americans want to do on vacation is – absolutely nothing.
Have you ever wondered what goes on in the minds of other people? Now, you and I are way above average so our minds obviously operate on a higher plane than almost everyone else. Gazing down from our enlightened perch can be interesting though.
Tomorrow is Father's Day. If you're a dad, it's a day for your children to honor you. Those kids, however, might not realize that it's also a day that generates a huge amount of stress for the honorees. You see, after a father accumulates a few miles on his odometer, he's expected to dole out gems of wisdom (as befits his lofty status).
As I read the news each day, I come across items that are interesting. These may be stand-alone snippets or something contained deep in a long article. I collect these and at some point I need to open the Neff Zone corral and release them into the wild.
I'm a list guy. I prefer my lists on paper. There is something very satisfying about crossing items off a paper list. Sometimes old school is the best school.
The Memorial Day weekend signals the beginning of another summer season of graduation parties, family picnics, and reunions. With things so politically contentious, finding chit-chat topics that will not cause a fist fight is of paramount importance.
Chances are making a simple phone call is just one of many things you do with your phone each day. Can you imagine getting through a day without your phone?
When thinking about staying healthy, have you ever given any thought about the bottoms of your shoes?
It's time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. This time around we're focusing on spending money and getting little in return.
In 1991, there was one website on the Internet. One! The next year, 1992, the Net expanded to ten websites. As we speak, there are now about 1,200,000,000 websites.
None of us know very much, but it's not our fault. In fact, by the time you read this sentence you will have fallen farther behind because 1.7 megabytes of new information is created every second. “More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire previous history of the human race.”
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) was one of America's greatest poets. Perhaps his best know work was “Leaves of Grass,” which dealt with “democracy, nature, love, and friendship.” Less known about Whitman was his promotion of healthy lifestyles.
Spring is in the air. The signs are everywhere. Lake Cadillac is open. The sidewalks are snow free. The kids walking past my house on their way to school are wearing the traditional Northern Michigan spring ensemble: flip-flops, shorts, ski jacket.
We live in contentious times. Still, there may be something upon which we can all agree. An answer to a question that assuredly would get a 100 percent “yes” response. Would you like to live longer and feel better while doing it?
There is such tornadic activity in the news cycle these days it's enough to make the propeller on your beanie break loose and launch into outer space. To be sure, the main stories capture the headlines. However, there are aspects to these that you might be interested to know.
I can't get my feet under my desk because the crate where I archive my research runneth over. I count 37 of these crate escapees, so it's time to set them free. I've decided to just choose some at random and extract one factoid from each.
If English is your language of choice, you generally use about one percent of the words available in the English vocabulary. That's seems like a small amount, but there are more than 1,022,000 English words.
Nothing exists in isolation. Very few issues have just a single layer, so what's on the surface is often misleading. Sometimes peeling back the layers reveals complications that are not visible at first look.
I don't know about you, but have about had it “up to here” with so-called alternative facts. Back in the day these were called “bald-faced lies,” but I guess thinking this makes me an an out-of-it curmudgeon. So be it. Anyway, I thought perhaps if you are of like mind, you might enjoy reading some actual true facts for a change.
Well kidlings, it's time for the first 2017 round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction.
Join me in this simple prayer. “Dear Lord, we beseech you to grant us three hours with no politics this Super Bowl Sunday. Amen.”
You are awakened in the morning by the police pounding on your door. They are here to “arrest” your lawn, seize your house, and throw you out into the street. Far fetched, right? Not really. It's all legal (in the U.S. of A) under a procedure known as “civil asset forfeiture.”
Consider the proposal to build a wall along the Mexico/U.S.A border. Take all the politics out of it. Just consider the logistics. Building such a wall has some very real and formidable challenges.
The transition from 2016 to 2017 presents a conundrum. Should we approach the coming year with elation or trepidation? After the riotous political season that ended 2016, perhaps the words of Michelangelo might apply: “The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.”
This year comes to a close today. It certainly has been interesting. So much has gone on that the research crate beneath my desk overflowed at times. This brings us to a few items to clean up as 2016 draws to a conclusion.
Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, everyone took a deep breath and reached for the aspirin bottle. Whew! Having fun is hard work. In many ways Christmas is a numbers game. It turns out the holiday reveals some interesting digits.
It's that time of year. Crunch time. The week before Christmas. I figure you have all the big stuff covered. Let me fill in the corners with a few holiday knick-knacks.
With the holidays upon us finding the right gifts for people on our Christmas list becomes problematic. The best presents are items that the recipient will actually use. One perplexing category is the senior citizen.
Right now I'm playing a waiting game. Ski season has not started due to no snow and Christmas is three weeks away. It's a good time to just let some random thoughts escape from my noggin.
The holiday season is upon us. With the spirit of the season in mind, I'm renewing my policy of the past twelve years. During the holidays this column is devoted to positive, informative, fun, and (hopefully) entertaining news.
This political season you've heard a lot about the manufacturing and jobs outlook in the United States. It's common to hear politicians bemoan the “fact” that China has it all and the U.S. is going down the tubes. It's expedient rhetoric, but outside the make-believe world of politics and down on the factory floor a different reality is taking shape.
The word “oblivious” is the focus of today's discussion. What brought this word to mind was a Speak Out letter to the Cadillac News from my friend Bernie Bovee. In the letter Bernie expressed his concern about “the pedestrian automobile challenge at Cadillac's major intersections.” I share Bernie's trepidation.
I try to avoid numbers. I'm a words guy, so deep in my noggin is the suspicion that numbers only exist to confuse me. However, stressful numerals keep popping up in the news. A particular number may illustrate an uncomfortable point, drive home a disturbing fact, or simply cause me to scratch my head in consternation.
Sometimes, regardless of good intentions, things just go south. No one means for things to go south and everyone tries to make sure things do not go south, but despite our best efforts some things just wind up headed in a southerly direction.
The CAVB has now placed four KISStorical plaques around Cadillac. Music fans can now walk from plaque to plaque. Each all-weather marker features classic photos and an explanation of why the spot is significant in the story. Call it a “KISSercise” experience. The route is 2.4 miles long and takes in some great Cadillac scenery.
One of my favorite things to do while reading the news is to spot seemingly small facts buried within larger articles. It's sort of like being in a mine and uncovering a gem.
Technology is only technology if it was invented after you were born. Otherwise, it's just the way things have always been.
I thought about this when I came upon a news item about the demise of a simple piece of “technology” – the headphone jack.
Once again the last holiday of summer is upon us and that means a final chance for summer picnics, family reunions, and end-of-season parties. There will inevitably be a lot of conversational chatter going on, so it's important for you to be armed with a host of chit-chat worthy topics that will not inspire a fist fight.
I played high school football. I coached high school football. I was the “Voice of the Cadillac Vikings” on radio for many years. I've been a spectator since I was a kindergartener (in 1953) attending Flint Northern games with my father. I love high school football. All that said, I fear for the game.
I don't walk around while staring down at my phone. This is mainly because I am not coordinated enough to walk and do a second thing at the same time. Being a klutz has its advantages though. Having your head up allows you to be more aware of what's going on around you in the real world.
There is big news and there is small news. I have a tendency to accumulate a stockpile of small news items, to the point at which they overrun my desk. So, it's time to clear the decks. Make way for a whole bunch of items from my small news files.
Words matter. With the primaries behind us and the actual election now underway, we voters will be bombarded with a tsunami of words over the next ninety days. Therefore it's important to have our election terminology well in hand.
One glare from Sister Veronita or Sister Robertus could silence a room and make the toughest students behave like members of a church choir. I thought of this when I saw a letter to the editor from an IHM sister, Sister Mary Jane Herb, in last Sunday's Detroit Free Press. It was such a compelling letter about today's political atmosphere that I sent it to all my classmates (Class of 1965). I received several replies, with the most common comment being “Amen, Sister.”
It's not often that you get to be a hero, provide an invaluable service to medical research, help millions of people all over the world, and have loads of fun doing it. For free. Using only your thumbs.
Summer is a time of year to be endured while we wait for next ski season. At least that's what I tell my family when the temperature hovers near ninety degrees, causing me to go into my grumpy old man routine.
In almost every news item there is a key word. Sometimes that word is obvious and is just fun to spot. Other times the word dictates the meaning of the entire item.
This time of year with all sorts of picnics and gatherings to attend, it's a good idea to have a bevy of conversation topics at your disposal. With all the contentious presidential race hoo-hah in the air, it's also nice to be able to divert attention in directions that won't cause black eyes.
It has been a rough couple of weeks. It seems like every time you turn on the television or open a newspaper one more horrific story smacks you right between the eyes. You just catch your breath only to have the wind knocked out of you again. So, are you ready for some good news for a change?
One of the best things about reading the news is that there is always something to discover every single day. Scientists tell us that the sum total of human knowledge is doubling every twelve months and soon it will double every twelve hours. That's a lot of information zipping past us, so it's pretty easy to snag items as they pass by.
This is Neff Zone column number 600. Back in 2004, who could have guessed that I'd still be spouting my weekly nonsense in 2016? In a non-scientific, unofficial, and almost nonexistent poll of the readers of this column, it has been determined that fifty percent of readers think my twelve years of longevity means that I have become an institution. The other fifty percent think I belong in an institution. That said, onward we go.
Some things are just plain creepy or at the very least a bit disturbing. It's different for everyone, but we all have things that that make our skin crawl, raise our hackles, trip our inner radar
alert system, or just trigger our “yuckification” reflex.
“Show me the money,” is an often heard refrain. Right or wrong, when you boil down a news item to its essence, more times than not it comes down to money. This holds true in many aspects of
About 95 percent of my research winds up in the circular file. After 597 Neff Zone columns, that's a lot of material gone by the wayside. The plain truth is that there is so much happening every day, I am continually uncovering new things about which to write.
APRIL 30, 2016 -- HARD TO BELIEVE
Sometimes you come upon news that is hard to believe. You realize an item is true, but it just makes you want to shake your head. Sometimes the item makes you angry, sometimes sad, and sometimes incredulous.
One of my favorite things about reading newspapers is uncovering things I did not know before. Sometimes it's the crux of an article, but many times it's a nugget that is only revealed upon reading the entire piece.
Well kidlings, it's a time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction.
The news these days is weighing me down. Ah, but now spring is upon us and so we are all due a break. It's time to take a breath and consider some lighter fare. Things that will not overwork our noggins.
Back in the olden days, before Al Gore invented the Internet (wink, wink), people kept their contacts list in a Rolodex. Writers had a different use for a Rolodex. They would put one topic on each card. If they experienced writer's block, they would spin the Rolodex and whatever card flew out would be the writing topic of the day.
Let me pose a hypothetical situation and then ask some hypothetical questions. This will all relate to an under reported incident within the scope of the Flint water crisis, but it will take some
time to get there.
MARCH 19, 2016 -- BY THE NUMBERS
I'm a words guy, not a numbers guy. Sometimes, however, looking at numbers is interesting, to say the least. They can reveal and explain some things better than thousands of words. Or, they can raise a question in stark black and white.
Every once in a while I run across items that interest me and are worthy of passing along to other people. After all, you never know when you might need a tidbit to impress your friends.
As I peruse the news I clip out items from newspapers that might be of use later. I toss these into a crate beneath my desk. The crate overfloweth, so now might be a good time to see what has been accumulating.
FEBRUARY 27, 2016 -- GLIMMERS OF HOPE IN FLINT
In Flint, there were glimmers of hope before the water crisis and those rays are still trying to make it through the clouds. I've seen it first hand. This past summer my wife and I were taken on a tour of downtown Flint. Here's what we saw.
FEBRUARY 20, 2016 -- IF CADILLAC WERE FLINT
It's tough to imagine what it's like to live in Flint right now. We can read about it, but that's an impersonal exercise. Perhaps if we think about some of the same circumstances being applied to our lives here in Cadillac, it might make the picture a bit clearer.
FEBRUARY 13, 2016 -- PERSONAL THOUGHTS ON FLINT
It would be no exaggeration to say that we've read millions of words about Flint water over the past few years. In short, I believe I have the credentials to make some personal observations. (This may take more than one column.)
There is no doubt that Dirk Dunbar was the greatest basketball player in the history of Cadillac High. In a new book, “Confessions of a Basketball Junkie,” Dunbar takes us along on a journey of discovery.
JANUARY 30, 2016 -- TOSSING NUMBERS AROUND
I'm a words guy, not a numbers guy. However, as I do research for this column I often run into numbers that are interesting or amusing.
JANUARY 23, 2016 -- AN ELECTION I WOULD LIKE TO SEE
I wrote a column in the Cadillac News on August 23, 2004 - twelve years ago! (I've written 582 columns and that was column number three.) The column could have been written yesterday. Twelve years and, if anything, the situation has deteriorated.
JANUARY 16, 2016 -- YOU CAN'T MAKE UP THIS STUFF
It's a time for another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction.
JANUARY 9, 2016 -- NEWS AS ENTERTAINMENT
Sometimes news is just news, but sometimes news can also be a source of entertainment. Many times all it takes is the patience to let a story unfold and if you do that developments can get pretty entertaining.
As we head into the new year, there are a lot of random thoughts rolling around in my cranium. Now seems like a good time to empty my attic as we move into 2016.