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. 


Item: There are 338 drive-in movie theaters left in America. There are just ten of these still operating in Michigan. The closest one to Cadillac is the Cherry Bowl in Honor. The demise of these is sad because without them our youths cannot learn vital life skills, like how to cram a dozen friends in a car trunk so only the driver has to pay the admission fee. See the Michigan list at:


Item: If you have a box of baking soda you may want to keep it in case you need surgery. Why? “A breakdown in the supply chain of sodium bicarbonate — the same basic compound as household baking soda — for use in medical procedures is expected to limit access to certain treatments in hospitals through the end of the year. The FDA is currently tracking about 55 treatments with shortages.” (


Item: As we speak, the Detroit school district has 263 teacher vacancies. That means on any given day there are 263 classrooms staffed by other personnel who may or may not be qualified. This in spite of giving new hires a $500 signing bonus and also giving a $1000 bonus for any teacher who lasts to the end of the school year. Clearly, teaching in Detroit is not a dream job, but things could get worse because the state's universities are producing 38 percent fewer teacher candidates.



Item: Mackinac Island is desperate for workers and it's not because the folks up there are not willing to work. “Mackinac Island has a permanent population of just under 500. On the mainland, Mackinaw City boasts about 900. Roughly 2,400 people live in St. Ignace. But it takes about 3,000 people to power this island resort during peak season.” Most businesses need guest workers from other countries to fill the void. ““There’s no labor pool up here to draw from,” says Todd Callewaert, president of the Island House hotel.” Because of new limits in the H2B visa program, Island businesses are scrambling. (


Item: Wisconsin dairy farmers are also experiencing a critical labor problem. The state produces 25 percent of the nation's cheese, so if you take that out of the cheese supply chain that's a lot of bald pizzas. “By some estimates, up to 80 percent of the hired help on large Wisconsin dairy operations is immigrant labor.” There is a shrinking labor pool in Wisconsin. “ Dairy farmers say they get almost zero response from native-born job applicants even when pay is comparable with nearby factories.” An AgNews report noted that nationwide: “A complete loss of immigrant labor could cause the loss of one-in-six dairy farms and cut U.S. economic output by $32.1 billion, resulting in 208,000 fewer jobs nationwide. Some 77,000 of the lost jobs would be on dairy farms.” ( and


Item: Some Millennials are having a tough time. “About one of three 18-to-34-year-olds relies on parents’ financial help, and a similar proportion live in their parents’ homes. The economic situation of young men has plummeted, with 41 percent of those ages 25-34 earning less than $30,000 annually, compared with just 25 percent who were below that inflation-adjusted threshold in 1975. The status of women has spiked...compared with young men, however, their earnings still trail those of males.”



Item: You can now learn to speak Klingon. “The language of about 3,000 words spoken in the Star Trek now being taught at Migros Club School, Switzerland’s largest adult education institution.” The guy who teaches the class does so “attired in a dark yellow shirt like the one Captain Kirk wears on the intergalactic journey.”The three-hour course costs $80 and covers Klingon history, as well as grammar, pronunciation and basic sentence structure.” With this class and more on the way, the instructors say “more students will be able to boldly go where few have gone before.”



Item: A deal between Intel and Major League Baseball means that fans soon will be able to watch games in virtual reality. “You might get to watch from the perspective of the first or third base coaches, or from the dugout. Camera pods are automated, so you get to choose the views you want.” This leads me to a question for you. I was listening to a Lansing sports talk radio show and they were estimating the cost for a family of four to attend a Tigers game was in the $500-$600 range (factoring in tickets, food, parking, and travel). So I ask, why would you spend all that money and go to the trouble to attend a game in person when you can put on your VR goggles, click back in your recliner, and watch the game while standing next to the Tigers' third base coach? (


Final Item: A cool tech thingy means you may never lose your car keys again. Chipolo is a small disk, about the size of a fifty-cent piece, with a “computer” chip. You attach the Chipolo to any item, like a key ring, a purse, your kid. If you lose the item attached to the Chipolo, you press a button on a smartphone app and the Chipolo chirps out a sound. A GPS map also shows where the lost item is located. If you lose your phone, pressing the Chioplo disk makes your phone chirp. Pretty useful at:


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