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.


I happened to think about my dad's theory about buying last things. Big Don observed: “You will come to a stage of life when you will buy your last things, like your last drill, last golf clubs, and last barbecue grill. Always buy the best because when you're gone you want your kids to remember you as a great guy who left behind quality stuff and not a miserable cheapskate who left a pile of junk.”


This philosophy can be applied to Christmas gifts, too. Wink-wink! If you have parents of a certain age, be sure to buy them gifts that you want to inherit. Everyone wins. They get a great gift and you have cool stuff in your future. Remember, when it comes to gifts it's the thought that counts. So, think ahead.


When it comes to gifts and shopping, there are some interesting surveys that have been reported lately. While shopping, 37 percent of men and 28 percent of women dislike hearing holiday music. People who shop online tend to buy more than they need because 91 percent say they spend extra just to qualify for free shipping. Once the item is shipped, you are not out of the woods. Over 11 million homeowners had packages stolen from in front of their homes within the past year.


While most of us have been looking forward to the holidays, you might be interested to know that the water crisis in Flint is still ongoing. Residents reported what it was like cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with bottled water. One resident kept track: thaw turkey (25) brine turkey (9), rinse turkey (3) rinse vegetables (6), cook vegetables 10, mashed potatoes (6), for a grand total of 58 bottles of water. Some families said they used upwards of 160 bottles. “Families didn't invite family members over because it's embarrassing to have to live off of bottled water.” ( has a new word that may apply to the situation in Flint – woke. It means: “Actively aware of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights.” This is just one of 300 new words that have been added to the dictionary in 2016. Some of my favorites are: al desko (eating at one’s desk in an office), lumbersexual (a man whose style of dress and appearance is reminiscent of the ruggedly masculine stereotype of the lumberjack), athleisure (a style of clothing inspired by athletic apparel but also worn as casual, everyday wear, and free-range parenting (a style of child rearing in which parents allow their children to move about without constant adult supervision, aimed at instilling independence and self-reliance). See more at:


The news is always on my mind and the fires around Gatlinburg, Tennessee are frightening and tragic. What you may not know is that there is a connection between Northern Michigan and Gatlinburg. In the center of town is the Gatlinburg Sky Lift that is operated by Boyne USA Resorts (headquartered in Boyne Falls, MI).


I was friends with the late Everett Kircher, the founder of Boyne. In a Michigan Golfer magazine article I wrote: “ While the ski resorts are the star income producers for Boyne USA, a lesser-known catalyst has been almost equally as important. In 1953, Kircher received an inquiry from an innkeeper in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, wondering if Kircher might be interested in building a scenic chairlift as a tourist attraction for the inn. Kircher agreed to build the chair, but only if it was a Boyne owned enterprise. He then acquired a 99-year lease on the needed property and installed the lift, which has been running ever since. The Boyne chair sits in the center of Gatlinburg and is a veritable 'money machine' according to Kircher. 'We've been able to develop a lot of Boyne properties without ever having to borrow a dime because of that chairlift.'” Boyne sold the property to CNL Income Properties in the mid-2000s as part of a strategic alliance, but it has continued to handle the lift's operations.



If you plan on traveling on an airline during the holidays, getting through the TSA lines could be a problem. During one week last March, for example, 6,800 people on American Airlines missed flights due to slow TSA checkpoints. A service called “Clear” claims it can cut your TSA time to 30 seconds or less (


“When you sign up, Clear will digitally authenticate your driver's license or passport and ask you a few personalized data questions. Next, it will link your fingerprints, iris images, and face to your identity. Instead of lining up to have TSA check your identification, Clear members can head directly to a branded pod and quickly have their iris or fingerprints scanned, then head straight to the metal detectors and bag scans.” The cost is $179 per year and Clear is available at many airports, Including Detroit. (


FYI, in 2015 the TSA collected more than $760,000 in unclaimed cash from travelers who had forgotten the money after passing through airport security. There's a bill in Congress to direct that money “to provide places of rest and recuperation for Armed Forces members and their families.” It's called the Loose Change Act. (


While on a recent trip to Olympia, Washington I saw my favorite gift suggestion sign so far this season in front of a Husqvarna dealer: “Afraid of clowns? We have chainsaws and axes.”


Finally, remember that I have put together a nifty web page for the holidays. There are games, activities, crafts, quizzes, trivia, recipes and more for the whole family to enjoy. See it at


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