JUNE 25, 2016 -- BY JIM NEFF







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.


For example, as you sit around the picnic table notice what everyone is drinking. Then toss this tidbit into the chatter. “A new report from Beverage Marketing found that bottled water consumption grew 120 percent between 2000 and 2015. That rapid rise has occurred as carbonated beverages have slowly fallen out of favor, going down 16 percent in the same time period.”

Experts say that by this time next year, bottled water will be the number one selling beverage in the country. “Bottled water, both sparkling and still varieties, has become an alternative for juice, tap water and even alcoholic drinks, says Michael Bellas, CEO of Beverage Marketing.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2016/06/08/americans-cut-calories-drinking-more-bottled-water/85554612/)


This is very interesting, but the people in Flint have a different level of enthusiasm when it comes to bottled water. As a beverage it might be refreshing; as your only source of water it's just tedious. Now the state of Michigan is making obtaining bottled water even more time consuming. “People have been guaranteed clean water, but the state has closed all fire station water distribution centers in Flint. Months into the water emergency, some people don't have a reliable way to get bottled water to their homes...Three out of the city's nine wards (including the one in which I grew up) don't have state-run water sites. State run sites have set hours, are open six days a week and are staffed by paid workers, while places like churches rely on volunteers.” Flint residents can't catch a break when it comes to their state's response to this government-made disaster. Now hunting water sites has been added to the list of indignities. (http://www.abc12.com/content/news/Wards-458-without-state-run-water-sites-for-nearly-a-month-383698571.html)


Oh, and that home that Governor Snyder visited back in April so he could collect some mmmmm-good Flint tap water? The water he was going to drink for 30 days, but then left for Europe two weeks later? The stuff he says he still drinks occasionally? “Less than a month after Snyder's visit, (Cheryl) Canty said her family was told by the Environmental Protection Agency to go back on bottled water. “ Needless to say, the Governor has not been back to borrow water recently.



(Note: After this column was submitted, EPA officials said Flint filtered water is safe to drink. However, the EPA and CDC also cautioned: "Flint residents continue to use filtered or bottled water for drinking, cooking or brushing their teeth until lead levels — which have been declining — are found to be safe. Officials said it is also important that filters are properly installed and that replacement cartridges are changed regularly." So the water is safe...sort of. 



Michigan aside, there are a few states where the residents should be required to drink more bottled water. That's because they have the nation's worse statistics for drunk driving. “Northern states in the Midwest and West are the most dangerous for drunken driving...North Dakota ranked first in fatalities and in driving-under-the-influence arrests in 2015...Montana was second, with the highest cost per fatality...Idaho, Wisconsin, South Carolina and South Dakota rounded out the riskiest states for impaired driving.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/04/28/survey-northern-states-worst-drunken-driving/83537526/)

Michigan ranks twenty-fourth, so we're in the middle of the pack. Ohio is 38, Indiana 48, and Illinois 43, so diving in our general region is fairly safe. Utah is the state with the least drunk driving problems in the country. You can see a map with all the rankings at: http://www.carinsurancecomparison.com/most-dangerous-states-for-drunk-driving/.


Statistics are always enlightening. A recent study shows that the population of Michigan is shifting from the east side of the state to the west side. “A city-by-city breakdown of Michigan's population changes from 2010-15...shows a clear migration to the western side of the state, most notably Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and towns within Grand Traverse and Leelenau counties. In fact, since 2010, Grand Rapids' population has increased by 7,043 people, or 3.7 percent.” 


This might explain the traffic increase in Traverse City. It seems like you can drive from Cadillac to TC in 45 minutes, but it takes you another 45 minutes to get from one side of TC to the other.


Conversely, this study shows: “Areas in Northern Michigan, with the exception of the NW, have for the most part remained relatively unchanged.” In fact, the population of the City of Cadillac has remained pretty consistent. In 2014 there were 10,368 residents and in 2015 just five more, 10,373. You can see the breakdown for every county, city, and township at: http://www.mlive.com/news/index.ssf/2016/05/see_a_map_chronicling_populati.html.


Finally, speaking of population statistics, when it comes to toasting the bride and groom with bottled water or some bubbly, nothing tops what's going on in China right now. “China has about 30 million more young adult men than young adult women because of a one-child policy (which ended this year).”


As a result, finding a mate and then enticing her to marry you has become a real problem for young men. “Chinese men are coming up with more extravagant ways to propose marriage in a society where demographics are stacked against them. Recent proposals include luxury cars arranged in the shape of a heart, a bouquet of 999 red roses made out of Chinese currency and 99 new iPhones also arranged in the shape of a heart.” (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/05/31/china-proposals-marriage/85035094/)


From skywriting to giant diamond rings, nothing seems to be out of bounds for these proposals. My favorite is the one where a guy in Beijing proposed by making a bouquet of roses out of thinly sliced meat (which you can see at http://news.qq.com/a/20150330/008931.htm#p=1.


Guys, I don't know how you proposed, but if I had popped the question and handed my intended a jug of pickled bologna I would have still been single when I got out of the hospital.


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at CadillacNews.com and NeffZone.com/cadillacnews.

John R. Rose
Byrd Newspapers of Virginia
Jun 25, 2016