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.


If you thought 2016 was tough going, consider the plight of the Three Wise Men. The world is down to just one frankincense forest, so in the near future they may need a substitute between the gold and the myrrh. The last frankincense forest is in Somaliland, an autonomous republic in Somalia's northwest. “But now these last intact wild frankincense forests on earth are under threat as prices have shot up in recent years with the global appetite for essential oils. Over harvesting has led to the trees dying off faster than they can replenish, putting the ancient resin trade at risk.” Says Shukri Ismail, Somaliland's minister of environment and rural development: “Frankincense is something that is literally given by God to humanity, so if we don't preserve it, if we don't take care of it, if we don't look after it, we will lose that.” (


Speaking of tough times in 2016, be thankful you don't work in Japan where people are literally dying at their jobs. A government report observed, “employees at nearly one in four companies are at risk of dying from working too many hours.” According to a Cabinet Office report: “Employees at 23 percent of Japanese companies worked 80 hours or more of overtime per month. That’s the threshold at which the risk of death from physical or psychological causes is significant.” Some workers said they had time for only ten hours of sleep per week. The Labor Ministry reported that 100 suicides per year were “just the tip of the iceberg.” (


If you spent this holiday season with people ignoring you because they were absorbed in looking at their phones, you may be a curmudgeon. Some experts now say that staring at your cellphone is actually good manners. “Anyone in their late 30s, or older, tends to judge millennials for tapping away on their cellphones, often labeling the entire generation as rude. But several etiquette gurus have a counterargument: Young people do care about building relationships more than their elders may realize. They’re just finding help in different ways...the very things keeping young folks glued to their screens...this generation finds it acceptable to use a cellphone during a family meal, at church, in the classroom or during a business meeting.” (


When it comes to the definition of “rude,” the airlines are front and center in their seeming quest to turn travelers into louts. In 2017 you will see a new ticket classification called “Basic Economy.” When you buy this ticket you won't be strapped to the outside fuselage, but pretty close. Basic Economy means you purchased “...nothing except getting you to wherever you’re going. Passengers are restricted to a purse and a single personal item. Forget wheeled carry-ons. Fliers may use the overhead bin for coats and personal items, but only if space is available when they board. They’re in the last boarding group. The seat is assigned after check-in or at the gate, meaning that family or friends aren’t likely to sit together. Ticket changes are not permitted.” Flying the “friendly skies” will be more relaxing than ever! (


Traveling by car instead of by air is one way to avoid the airline ticketing hassle, but that assumes your car is there when you want to use it. If you use a key fob to unlock your vehicle, that may not be the case. “A national watchdog group identified a device that lets thieves steal cars that use key fobs. The device allows a person to open car doors, start vehicles and drive them away.” The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) reported this month that the so-called Relay Attack device is “about the size of a smartphone and can capture a signal from a nearby key fob before using the signal to gain entry illegally.” In its findings, the NICB found: “In 19 of its 35 tests, the device opened the vehicle. In 18 of those 19 entries, it was able to start the vehicle and drive away.” (


Even if you do get on the road, you may not be safe. “Almost 34,000 people in Michigan were arrested in 2015 for driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, according to the Michigan State Police's 2015 Drunk Driving Audit.” What may surprise you is that because of this driving in Wexford County is more dangerous than driving in Flint or Detroit. Wexford has an arrest rate of 68 per 10,000 drivers, while Flint's rate is 44 and Detroit's is 45. The county you want to avoid if possible is Gogebic in the Western Upper Peninsula that has a 95 rate. You can see all the rates at:


Well, if you're feeling stressed out about all this whatever you do don't try to blow off steam by exercising. “Being very upset or angry more than doubles the risk of a heart attack within an hour, while heavy physical exertion does the same, a worldwide study suggested. But combining the two – such as using extreme exercise as a way of calming down – increases the risk even further. Excess anger, under the wrong conditions, can cause a life-threatening heart attack. All of us should practice mental wellness and avoid losing our temper to extremes.” (


Finally, as we go into 2017 it might be nice to have some good advice at our disposal. One such gem of wisdom comes from Jim Blackley, VP of Charter Communications. “You can never be too rich or have too much bandwidth.”


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