New Year's Eve is tomorrow and that means a plethora of parties will be on the docket. Christmas gatherings typically involve a big dinner, while New Year's Eve soirees generally feature an array of small snacks. The goal is to avoid being in a tryptophan coma when the ball drops at midnight. 


This same thing applies to the news. As you encounter people and engage in multiple conversations, heavy topics are cumbersome. Keeping chit-chat light and lively is paramount. 


For instance, since people will be staying up later than usual, talking about sleep habits may be of interest. A recent study discovered something unusual. Sleep regularity, 'defined as the day-to-day consistency of sleep-wake timing,' may be an even stronger predictor for mortality risk and certain health outcomes than average sleep length. Participants with the most regular, day-to-day fall-asleep and wakeup patterns had a 20- to 40-percent lower risk of death by any cause; a 16- to 39-percent lower risk of death from cancer; and a 22- to 57-percent lower risk of death by cardiometabolic conditions.” (


Considering sleep patterns, if you are a morning person it may be because of genetics. “Researchers studying hundreds of genes that influence the body clock say people with some Neanderthal genes were much more likely to be morning people, Previous research has found that early risers are quicker to adapt to changes in the length of sunlight in a day.” (


Snoozing aside, too many snacks could cause a reaction. Such was the case for a woman who set a record for a belch (female version). “Maryland woman Kimberly Winter belted out a belch that was measured at 107 decibels -- about as loud as a motorcycle at full throttle. Winter told Guinness World Records she had coffee and beer with her breakfast on the day of the attempt to ensure maximum volume for her gargantuan gas, which was just short of the 112.7-decibel male version of the record.” (


Odd records stretch the imagination, but sometimes real laws can also spark curiosity. Did you know that it's illegal to own just one guinea pig in Switzerland? “Because guinea pigs are social creatures who grow lonesome without a friend, it’s illegal to own just one of them in Switzerland. The law was introduced in 2008 as part of a legislative effort to grant social rights to pets.” 

It does not end there. “Goldfish are also prohibited from being kept alone, cats must at least have access to a window where they can see their fellow felines prowling around, and, for a time, dog owners were required to take an obligatory training course with their pooch.” (


Another law closer to home could be a reality in your neighborhood some day.  “Ann Arbor is banning gas-powered blowers, citing noise and pollution. The City Council approved the ordinance, 10-0. Violations will carry fines of $100 or $250, depending on the number of offenses. The money will be used to help low-income residents and small businesses acquire leaf blowers that don’t run on gas.” No word yet on the fines for 107 decibel belch. (


Inevitably, at any party there will be a discussion about the weird weather we are experiencing. By comparison, Reader's Digest has come up with twenty-five vintage photos of what winter used to look like. “Winter is always cold and long, but you have to make the most of the season. Take a look at how people used to celebrate the snow and ice.” See the collection at:


One activity many people enjoy during a normal winter in Northern Michigan is skiing. That's why a recent article is appropriate: “The Top 6 Reasons Michigan Is the Best Place to Ski in the U.S.” Those reasons are: “Ideal weather conditions, Breathtaking views, Plenty of places to ski, Trails for everyone of all skill levels, Cost, and Convenience”


In the “Trails” section, Crystal Mountain is highlighted. “With a wide variety of options, you can take your entire family skiing with you. Crystal Mountain is also a great place for the family because it’s on the same property as the Michigan Legacy Art Park.” 


Even closer, Caberfae Peaks is recognized in the “Cost” category. “There are plenty of affordable ski Areas in Michigan, including Caberfae Peaks. This location is family-friendly and has plenty of options with 34 runs, 485 vertical feet, and an open backcountry area. You can also enjoy night skiing at Caberfae and experience the highest life-served peaks in the state.” (


Ski films provide viewers with a bit of a “wow” factor. The scenery is usually awe-inspiring and the skiers perform feats that are spectacular (and even terrifying). These films are almost always shot in the western mountains. 


Now comes a film shot entirely in Michigan. “Lake Effect” by Mike King is entertaining for skiers and non-skiers alike. “Throughout filming, Mike realized you don't need to travel far to have an epic adventure. Rather some creativity, curiosity, and the willingness to walk out the door to the abundance that starts right in our backyards.” It's a thirty-six minute thrill ride at: Grab some snacks and hang on!


Finally, if you're looking for a New Year's Eve tradition that all ages can enjoy, one from Spain might be just the thing. Eating twelve grapes at midnight is explained at:


There may be some benefit to this. “Tradition has it that you have to eat them one by one, in time with the striking of the clock at midnight on 31 December. If you manage to eat all the grapes in time, you are in for a year of prosperity and good luck.”  


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