It's that time of year. Crunch time. The week before Christmas. Parties, gift hunting, travel, and more activities on your schedule than there are minutes in your days. So, here's the deal. I figure you have all the big stuff covered. Let me fill in the corners with a few holiday knick-knacks.


Having something to talk about at parties is always a challenge. If you are in a group of adults, ask this question: “How many crimes is Santa Claus guilty of?” Obviously, he would get charged with multiple counts of criminal trespass, home invasion, and burglary. But see if your group can come up with some of the more than a dozen illegalities that would send a regular person to the hoosegow. To see a list go to:


That might lead you to discussing another seasonal (sort of) tradition involving Santa – real crimes committed by people wearing Santa suits. One such classic happened in Texas in 1927. A group of four ex-cons held up the First National Bank in Cisco. They made away with the loot and took two girls hostage, but their escape car ran out of gas and they were caught. They got 99 years in prison, but an angry mob broke into the jail and lynched the gang's leader. You can see a list of the top ten Santa suit crimes at:


If you have to travel, the inevitable question coming from the back seat will be: “Are we there yet.” If you want an interesting road game to keep the kidlings busy, try this. Michigan has just decided to raise the speed limits on hundreds of miles of state roads. This means every single speed limit sign on those roads will have to be changed. Wisconsin did this in 2015 and found the coast of each sign change was $135. Have your kids count the number of speed limit signs on your trip and then multiply by $135 to see a real-life example of your tax dollars at work. Just so you know: “In 2014, researchers working with Michigan’s DOT found that upping rural interstate speed limits from 70 to 80 mph would cost $163.88 million annually.” Watch out for those potholes. (


Speaking of driving this holiday season, You may note that the price of gas is hovering around $2.25 per gallon right now. According to the 2016 Coffee Price Index, the average cost of a cup of coffee in the U.S. is $2.26. Gas and coffee cost the same.


Now add in a study out this week: “More than one third of young adult drivers surveyed admitted to sending texts and emails regularly while driving, the Office of Highway Safety Planning reports.” Higher speeds, caffeine, and texting; no way this could go sideways, eh? (


Once you get to your party destination, the sports fans in the group will probably turn on the tube to watch the annual college football exhibition game season, also called bowl games. Those fans might like to know that there are 41 bowl games, but 20 of the teams playing have records of 6-6 or worse. ESPN owns 13 bowl and those exist only so ESPN can fill programming time. Five bowls do not even have sponsors because they are so irrelevant. ( and


In terms of sports, if you are still looking for the perfect gift for the sports lover on your list why not get them a pair of the new Nike HyperAdapt 1.0 running shoes. The main feature is they are self-lacing. The only glitches might be that you can only get them at two locations in New York City, you have to make an appointment to be allowed to buy a pair, and they only cost $720. But they come with a USB charging station and GPS, so it's a steal, right? I may be a curmudgeon here, but does it seem ironic to you that a fitness shoe's main feature is aimed at people who don't want to bend over to tie their shoes? (


If you want a gift that gets your kids out of the house this winter with a price tag a tad less than a couple of car payments, how does “free” work for you? The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association is once again offering it's “Cold Is Cool” ski passport which lets fourth and fifth graders ski/snowboard for free. “Students can obtain a 'Cold is Cool' Ski and Ride Passport that gives them up to three free lift tickets or trail passes at 30 participating ski areas, plus additional discounts on the slopes and in Michigan ski shops.” Locally, Caberfae peaks participates in this program. This would be a great Christmas gift. For all the details, go to:


Finally, I ran across a couple of holiday surveys that were rather enlightening. One noted that 58 percent of Americans drink more during the holidays, citing visiting relatives as the top reason. The survey did not say whether the increased imbibing was due to partying WITH the relatives or to inoculate you AGAINST the relatives. The other survey found that 63 percent of Americans believe a good music playlist at a party makes people more attractive. I suspect this is partly due to the music and partly due to the findings in the drinking survey.


Don't forget my nifty holidays web page for the whole family at The kidlings might be particularly interested in the NORAD Santa Tracker.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and