The first big holiday weekend of the summer is upon us. This means your summer docket is probably filling up with a succession of graduation parties, family reunions, picnics and a variety of get-togethers. 


The key to getting maximum enjoyment out of these soirées is to avoid discussion topics that elicit mind-crushing boredom. Dodging Uncle Zelmo's commentary about the progression of his goiter over the winter must be achieved at all costs. So, as a public service, here are some topics that may help divert conversations to (at least) a tolerable level. 


For example, chicken may be on the menu at some parties. However, while wings may be a popular barbecue staple, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some advice regarding other chicken interaction. “Fifty-two people in 21 states have contracted salmonella from backyard poultry. The issue is that chickens and ducks with salmonella look healthy and clean, so people touch them and then get infected.” 


The CDC has recommended ways to avoid getting infected. One may surprise you: “Don’t kiss or snuggle backyard poultry.” So, stay safe this weekend. Don't smooch with poultry. (


If you're planning to attend a party away from home, depending on where you're headed, you may want to pack bug repellent. Orkin has just published its “Top 50 Mosquito Cities” list. The top cities in which to get eaten alive are:  

Atlanta,  New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Houston, Dallas-Ft. Worth, Detroit, Philadelphia, Charlotte, and Raleigh-Durham. Grand Rapids also made the list at 29. (


With chickens and bugs under control, you may want to insert a game into the discussion festivities. Ask this: “What are the best and worst states in which to live?” A new analysis by U.S. News & World Report will provide the answers. 


“The American rankings and analysis website factored in health care, education, economy, infrastructure, opportunity, fiscal stability, crime and corrections, and natural environment to create its annual list.” The ten best (1-10) were: Washington, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Utah, Vermont, Maryland, Virginia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Colorado. The ten worst (40-50) were: Kentucky, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Alaska, Arkansas, New Mexico, West Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana. 


Michigan came in at 33. In the various categories, the Michigan scores were: Health 24, Education 37, Economy 19, Infrastructure 41, Opportunity 14,  Fiscal Stability 27, Crime and Corrections 35, Natural Environment 29. Your tax dollars at semi-work.  (


One thing that may hinder conversation is phubbing, which is snubbing someone in favor of looking at a phone. A way to convert this from an insult to a chance for actual eye contact is to pose a simple question: “What is the main thing that causes mobile phones to fail?” 


The answer may surprise the phubber. According to the 2019 Ting Mobile Phone Fail Survey, phone drowning is the main cause. The main modes of phone drowning are: dropped in a toilet (30 percent), dropped in a pool (13 percent), rain (10 percent), dropped in a sink (7 percent), and dropped in a drink (7 percent). (


With some good weather predicted for this weekend, taking a walk along a lake or through the woods might be an enjoyable activity. This is so good for you that doctors are now issuing prescriptions for doing this. “Nature is becoming a form of medicine in west Michigan. Under a new initiative, Park Rx America, doctors are prescribing visits to local parks along with more traditional medicine to boost patient health.” The program is underway near Holland, Michigan. (


The Park Rx America website says: “The mission is to decrease the burden of chronic disease, increase health and happiness, and foster environmental stewardship, by virtue of prescribing nature during the routine delivery of healthcare by a diverse group of health care professionals. Physicians can register through the website to prescribe parks to their patients.” 


A check of the Park Rx site shows that no parks are listed in a 25-mile radius around Cadillac. This may be something we may want to update at:


Sports is always a popular field for spirited opinion swapping. A new rule for college basketball may come into play as early as next season. “The NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee proposed moving the 3-point line to the international basketball distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches. If the recommendation is approved by the Playing Rules Oversight Panel on June 5, the rule would be effective for the 2019-20 season in Division I. Due to the potential financial impact, the new 3-point line would go into effect for the 2020-21 season in Divisions II and III.” 


Moving the line back has the potential to alter the game. “The committee cited the following rationale for extending the line: Making the lane more available for dribble/drive plays from the perimeter, slowing the trend of the 3-point shot becoming too prevalent in men’s college basketball, and assisting in offensive spacing by requiring the defense to cover more of the court.” 



Finally, it would be appropriate to pause during the weekend to remember the real meaning behind Memorial Day. As John F. Kennedy said: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” 


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