Listen up, Orlando. The post-holiday blues are over. The New Year's malaise has cleared. The sun is dawning on a bright new day. Because Ted Simon is coming to town.

We can only think of two reasons why that name would mean nothing to you: 1) You have never dreamed of seeing exotic lands from the saddle of a motorcycle; 2) You have no soul. Neither possibility speaks well of you. Go watch MTV.

The rest of you know that Ted Simon wrote Jupiter's Travels, arguably the best motorcycle road-trip book ever. (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is fun but cerebral; Long Way Around is too pampered, Ten Years on Two Wheels is impossible to find, Two Wheels Through Terror is more about being a political prisoner than a biker, etc.)

Simon owns this genre, and not just because he spent four years circling the globe on a Triumph Tiger, beginning in 1973 when he was 46. See, he made the ride again, beginning when he was 69, and wrote a follow-up to Jupiter's Travels called Dreaming of Jupiter. In between books he wrote Riding High, a rumination about how travel changes you and why it's hard to return to a "normal" life once you've stepped so far out of the ordinary.

In summary, Ted Simon rules. You only wish you could be Ted Simon. He'll be speaking at the Orlando Public Library Main Branch, 10 E. Central Blvd., at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 9.

Since we're looking outward lately (read: making fun of other papers in order to feel a little better about ourselves), we thought we'd share a little website called The Examiner: Orlando. Or the Orlando Examiner. Or something. Just go to www.examiner.com/Orlando and check it yourself.

First of all, congratulations to local rock band Poverty Branch for winning the Examiner's Best Local Band contest, which consisted of a guy named Nicholas Johnston proclaiming, "I did some more listening to the new album and the previous work that Poverty Branch as `sic` done. Whilst doing that I realized what a truly great local band they are and what potential they truly have." Congrats, fellas!

There's more fun to be had at the Examiner: Orlando/Orlando Examiner site, including a feature about being tough and firm when starting out as a high-school teacher by Lauren Gibaldi, a former teacher and "aerialist in a circus."

Also, they gave Disney's Bolt "two paws up" (they'll be hearing from Ebert's lawyer), and someone named Connie MacLeod, who's had "a relationship with Jesus since she was 16," wrote a feature called "Great musical events in worship 2009" which neither talks about great musical events nor those to come in '09, but instead embeds an amazing video of a woman doing something weird at Northland Sanctuary in Longwood. This is seriously our new favorite site ever, y'all.

While you were busy worrying about the dead babies lining the Gaza Strip this holiday season, your very own Orange County Health Department issued a strong warning of danger right here in your plush lake-view backyard: HAB!

The Healthies are investigating "harmful algae blooms" — which are way scarier with a scary acronym — that have been popping up in two Orange County lakes, Lake Giles and Lake Waunatta. Cyanotoxins have been found, and if you happen to fall off your late-model personal watercraft into some slimy, discolored gook, you might find yourself dealing with dermatitis, skin irritation, runny eyes and nose, sore throat, asthma-like symptoms and everything else NyQuil purports to cure.

In order to avoid this, residents are instructed not to swim in discolored scum, not to allow pets to drink the scum, not to use scum for irrigation, and to "be mindful" of any and all exposures to scum they might have endured lest their neighbors refer to them unflatteringly as scumbags.

And now it starts getting ugly. In last week's installment of crotchety finger-wagging, we reported on the narrow Florida Supreme Court victory by Floridians for Smarter Growth in getting their "Vote on Nothing" shell-game amendment onto the 2010 ballot. Of course, for Florida Hometown Democracy — they who want you to vote on everything when it comes to comprehensive growth plan changes — this signaled both the end of the world and a call to arms.

Well, somebody in possession of a fine-toothed comb at FHD discovered that in requiring a voter's physical presence at the supervisor of elections office to sign a petition (and 10 percent of all area voters at that), the amendment nefariously would exclude our men and women in uniform! Why? Because they're over in Iraq and Afghanistan fighting for your "rights," you freedom-hating commie-pinko-faggot! Or, says Tom Baxter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War Inc., Tallahassee Chapter, in a press release, "Our deployed men and women in uniform are denied participation in the very democracy they serve to protect and defend."

It's great that the reasonably liberal initiative to increase democratic control copped a page from the right-wing chamber of commerce playbook. But it's also kind of embarrassing, even if the claims are true. Still, as we learned with last year's Amendment 2, in Florida you can't play nice.

FHD filed a motion for a rehearing with the Florida Supreme Court Jan. 5.

Former state representative and current political consultant Dick Batchelor — he of the name that launched a million giggles — has been on a well-publicized transparency rampage lately.

In December, Batchelor made headlines for calling on the Orange County School Board to stop making backroom decisions with lobbying interests, in addition to suggesting that maybe it shouldn't be so hard for the public to access documents. Bully for him!

On Dec. 31, the noted public schools advocate (and repeat offender on the Orlando Sentinel's 25 Most Powerful list — this year No. 21!) zipped out an e-mail blast to the Central Florida legislative delegation demanding a Saran Wrap hue to their budget proceedings as well. "If you remember, my main suggestion, rather than reviewing a litany of anecdotes of budget impacts, I simply requested that the Legislature bring ‘to the table' those who will be impacted, so they might, on behalf of themselves and their children, participate in the dialogue," he wrote.

It's a battle Batchelor's been waging for some time, having himself spoken to the delegation last month. In a Dec. 9 e-mail from Republican state Rep. Dean Cannon to Batchelor obtained by Happytown™, you can see the nuanced tug-of-war. Cannon says that he thinks it would be better for members to meet with affected parties "personally," adding that "some folks have indicated the delegation meeting is too impersonal, long and at times tedious for those waiting to speak, and is really a difficulty for, and an imposition upon, those individuals waiting in line to talk to us."

Your government has no time for you.



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