Memorial Day supposedly marks the first day of summer. Theoretically, it's a day when you can put away your snowblower. The day also begins the time of year for a schedule of picnics, open houses, and reunions. This means you'll need plenty of chat-worthy topics at your disposal. 


The phrase “did you know” is a good way to get the discussion ball rolling. For example, did you know the U.S. military is planning to build a super-size transport plane? “The primary job of any military organization is moving enormous amounts of stuff from one place to another as quickly and efficiently as possible. At the moment, the U.S. military has two options, a slow sea lift or an expensive air lift. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency wants to combine traditional sea lift and air lift with the Liberty Lifter program, which aims to design and build a seaplane that enables efficient theater-range transport of large payloads at speeds far exceeding existing platforms.” See this monster at:


Speaking of monsters, did you know that spiders are in demand as pets on the black market? “More than twelve hundred species of spiders, scorpions and other arachnids are involved in the wildlife trade. They are often smuggled because they are small and easy to conceal. Arachnids have become popular pets, especially because they don’t require much space.” I guess the next time you see a spider in your house you should not kill it. Instead, adopt it and cuddle up with it.  (


As cuddly pets go, cats are a bit more popular than spiders. Did you know cats can recognize the names of other cats? “Scientists found that cats living with other feline friends can recognize their own and each others’ names, and possibly even familiar humans’ names. Even though cats seem to ignore people calling their names because they don’t understand us, it turns out they’re probably just being rude. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do." (


Beverages are a main attraction at any gathering, so did you know the term “pop” is a Michigan invention? “Ask any Michigander and they’ll tell you it’s pop not soda. The reason why has to do with one of Michigan’s most famous beverage companies. “The term 'pop' was coined by Faygo after the sound lids made when they popped off the glass soda bottles.” I still subscribe to a fact I came upon as a kid. On a hot summer day, there's nothing like a big slug of Faygo Red Pop. (


Many summer foods go nicely with those beverages, but the problem is that some are a bit sloppy. Did you know that scientists have been working on this problem? A team of Johns Hopkins University students have come up with a new invention: edible tape. “The Whiting School of Engineering students unveiled their 'Tastee Tape' project. They were inspired to create their edible tape by their own experiences with notoriously messy foods such as burritos, tacos and wraps. All its ingredients are safe to consume, are food grade, and are common food and dietary additives.” Genius! How many wardrobe disasters will this prevent? (


In the realm of clean laundry, using dryer sheets is pretty common. Did you know there are all sorts of things you can do with dryer sheets? In fact, Taste of Home magazine has a list of “Twenty-two Uses for Dryer Sheets (That Aren’t Laundry).” One of these I can't personally test for an obvious reason – tame flyaway hair. However, another use is something I have done for years – repel insects. “Mosquitoes don’t like the smell of dryer sheets.” It could be fun to see if people at your gathering can guess more uses:


The many uses for dryer sheets are certainly surprising, but did you know scientists may have found a way to reuse all those disposable COVID masks? “With the pervasive single-use masks during the pandemic now presenting an environmental problem, researchers have demonstrated the idea of incorporating old masks into a cement mixture to create stronger, more durable concrete. A Washington State University research team showed that the mixture using mask materials was forty-seven percent stronger than commonly used cement after a month of curing. This work showcases one technology to divert the used masks from the waste stream to a high-value application.” Hooray! However slight, any good news on the COVID front is welcome. (


Finally, consider this amazing fact. Did you know that  Americans have bet more than $125 billion on sports with legal gambling outlets in the last four years? “The industry has worked itself into the daily lives of millions of Americans — from those who plunk down money hoping for a certain outcome to those who watch TV broadcasts with odds calculations to those struggling with gambling problems. You don’t have to be a gambler — or even a sports fan — to be affected: The industry tsunami of advertising is practically impossible to avoid, particularly on TV and radio.”


That's pretty amazing, but it's not the entire story. “To comprehend just how much $125 billion is, consider this: It’s a bit more than the amount that was spent on pet food, supplies and veterinary care in the entire country last year.” (


Want the ultimate in amazing? It was more than “the net income for (all of) America’s farmers last year.” Happy Memorial Day.


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