It's always good when the news contains things that offer a chance to learn something. Lately, reports have been issued on a variety of subjects and hence the opportunities for enlightenment have also increased. 


For example, do you remember the cow that jumped over the moon? Her leap just got easier. A new study reported in Nature Geoscience shows that the moon is  shrinking as its interior cools. NASA explains: "Just as a grape wrinkles as it shrinks down to a raisin, the Moon gets wrinkles as it shrinks.” Don't panic just yet. NASA also says:  “It's not a lot—the moon has gotten about 150 feet skinnier in the last several hundred million years.” Still, this is pretty good news if you're a jumping cow. (


The moon is not all that's shrinking. The world's supply of helium is also dwindling. It's so bad that Party City, a chain of party supply stores, is closing locations because there is not enough helium available to blow up balloons. “The global helium shortage could burst the bubble for all the businesses that rely on the gas to lift weather balloons, large blimps, and the balloons at your kid’s birthday bash. Helium is used in deep sea diving, airbags, cryogenics, rocket fuel, MRI machines and in areas of tech that include fiber optics and semiconductors.” 


Helium is non-renewable. “The top suppliers are Qatar, Algeria and the U.S. However, the (U.S.) National Helium Reserve is set to be shut down in 2021.” The days of sucking on a balloon to make your voice sound like a chipmunk may be over. 



Okay, so the moon is shrinking and party balloons are going flat, so what could be worse? Well, if you travel this summer and get into a ride-sharing vehicle you may want to wear a hazmat suit. “As millions of Americans embrace ride-hailing apps the health and safety risks of back-seat riding are becoming clearer. According to a study by insurance company Netquote, the average ride-share vehicle has about 219 times as many germs as the average taxi, which is cleaned regularly. It's nearly three times germier than the average toothbrush holder and more than 35,000 times germier than the average toilet seat.” 


You can cut down on your exposure to germs though. The most germs on ride-share vehicles are on the window buttons, seat belts, and door handles. Easy things to avoid touching, right? ( and


If you do ride in a shared vehicle, when you get out of the car you may want to use a clean restroom. There is good news on this front. “GasBuddy has identified each state’s cleanest restrooms by the brand in a study that took place over the course of three years. The data was collected from ratings and reviews on GasBuddy from Sept. 2016 to April of this year.” 


In Michigan, the cleanest restrooms were at the Holiday brand gas stations. Nearby, Holiday has Michigan-based stations in Gaylord, Charlevoix, and Traverse City. A graphic showing the brands with cleanest gas station restrooms in every state is at:


This travel information is all well and good, but what if you want to stay at home and perhaps even make a few bucks in the process? Reports are now filtering in about a new trend – outsourced parenting. These are businesses that parents can utilize to tackle tasks for which they lack the time (or expertise) to complete.


Scoff if you want, but apparently (pun intended) there is money to be made here. “Samantha Allen, owner of NYC Potty Training, charges anywhere from $2,000 to $3,300. Since founding her company in June 2014, she has built a client base that stretches from Virginia and California to London and Dubai and is considering franchising.”

Another consultant childproofs homes. “Peter Kerin of Foresight Childproofing in Eden Prairie, Minnesota charges $119 for a three-hour initial survey and then the cost of the safety products and $89 an hour for installation. Safety devices range from electrical outlet covers to a pool fence.” 


No word yet if any parenting consultant has figured out the answer to the age-old question: “Are we there yet?” (


If these reports are enough to make your head spin, all you may want to do is sit under a tree in your back yard and enjoy a frosty adult beverage. If so, a report by Groupon shows that you live in a prime location for doing just that. (


First, some statistical data for your shade tree discussions. “According to the U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, 207.4 million barrels of beer were sold in the U.S. in 2017. If barrels are hard to picture, it is about 2.9 billion 24 packs. If that’s still too abstract to imagine, think of a single 24-pack and then multiply that by 2.9 billion! Stack up all those 24-packs and it's enough to reach the moon … four times.”


How does Michigan figure into this? When Groupon combined the results for Quality, Affordability, and Enthusiasm, the top three states were California, Colorado, and Michigan. However, Groupon went on to conclude: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula—and dirt-cheap beer—look about you, Michiganders. It’s not quite the official state motto, but it might as well be. That’s because, according to our research, Michigan is the premier destination for folks looking to spend less.” 


Finally, if you're a weekend golfer there is some good news from a report published in Golf Digest ( This year the rules allow you to leave the flagstick in when you putt. However, according to PGA Tour statistics “the best tour players would strike the flagstick dead-center from 20 to 25 feet (only) about 3.3 percent of the time.” So, when you hit the stick on a long putt it must mean you're equal to the best pros in the game. Feel free to bask in the glory of your elite status. 


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


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