Well kidlings, there is no better way to begin the new year than with another round of "You Can't Make Up This Stuff," the game based on my brother Big Rob's theory that reality is stranger than any fiction. Usually when we play this game, we begin with an item from Big Rob's stomping grounds of Flint. This time, however, we drift north a bit to Saginaw Township. 


Put this one in the “love hurts” file. “A local man is recovering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound he suffered inside a Saginaw Township lingerie store, the Victoria’s Secret store in the Fashion Square Mall. A man was putting his wallet back into his pocket when a handgun also in the pocket discharged. The man suffered a non-life-threatening wound to his leg.” No other people were injured and, as far as we know, no underwear was damaged except for that of the shootist. 



Well, that guy may have trouble sitting down for a while, so he might want to avoid using a new invention from England. “A start-up company in the United Kingdom has devised a toilet that slopes thirteen degrees forward, making it uncomfortable to sit for longer than five minutes. The idea: to force people to put down their phones and take care of their business much faster.” Critics note that this could possibly limit social media use during extended stints on the loo. People might have to find other locations in which to use Facetime. 



This development could be enough to cause workers to want to drown their sorrows with an after-work adult beverage. This is already a pretty common occurrence. An survey found that one in three workers think this is okay to do and the average after-work drink session lasts 1.8 hours. 


The survey also determined how much it actually costs to “throw a few back after work over the course of one year.” Michigan workers spend $1,741 per year. “It's actually pretty low when compared to workers in other states. Kentucky workers spend the most at $5,530 per year. Maine workers spend the least with an average of $1,415. On average, Americans spent more than $3000. This may be why 14 percent  of respondents admitted that, on at least one occasion, they’ve acted inappropriately during after-work drinks.” To see a complete breakdown check the interactive map below.


If you find yourself imbibing a bit too much, it might help to clear your thoughts with a brain game. Solve this puzzle. “At a party, everyone shook hands with everybody else (it was a very polite party). There were 66 handshakes in total. How many people were at the party?” (The answer is at the end of this column.)


Now, if that little game was too easy, perhaps something a tad more complicated would be more challenging. Here's the question. Does the year 2020 begin a new decade or are we celebrating too early and we should actually wait until January 1, 2021?


A USA Today article made this observation: “A glitch in our calendar system creates a problem if you think decades should begin in years ending with a zero. If you continue the pattern back about 2020 years, you run into a major issue. That's because there is no 'year zero' in our calendar system. The lack of a year zero means the only consistent way to measure decades — or centuries or millennia — is to start them in years ending in one.” (


Say what? Hang with me here, as add to this theory. “It all boils down to the question: was there a year 0? Let's first assume that year BCE 0 existed. This would mean that: 1 full year would have passed at the end of year 0 since the beginning of the year count; 2 years would have passed at the end of year 1; and so on...This means that 2000 years, two full millennia, would have passed at the end of year 1999. In other words, the 3rd millennium would have started on New Year's Day 2000. The only problem with this theory is that year 0 did not exist.”


Confused yet? There's more. “Anno domini, the year numbering system (calendar era) we use today, was devised by a 6th-century monk named Dionysius Exiguus, who lived in an area now part of Romania and Bulgaria. Dionysius used Roman numerals to number the years and there is no Roman numeral for the number zero. In fact, it is believed that the concept of the number zero, as it is used today, did not exist in Europe until the 13th century.”


We're not done. “Year 1 BCE Was Followed by Year CE 1. This means that year AD 1 directly followed year 1 BC, without the year count ever reaching zero. In other words, the first year of the anno domini era was year 1, not year 0. As a consequence, 1 full year had passed at the end of year 1; 2 years had passed at the end of year 2; and so on...So, at the end of year 1999, as people were celebrating the new millennium, only 1999 full years had passed since the beginning of the calendar era—which is one year short of two full millennia.” (


Don't look at me, folks. My math skills are are such that I am not allowed to touch the family checkbook. I still have a paper “to do” list and paper calendar on my desk. Aha, but I do have the answer to the handshake puzzle mentioned earlier. “There were 12 people at the party.” Or so I'm told. 


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



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