Sentinel employees sacked, OPAC on the fast track and the Fat-Ass Ride for Cancer

This isn't such a happy town for the nine Orlando Sentinel employees who were unceremoniously sacked last week. Blaming "the difficult economic times we are in," and below-target advertising revenues, publisher Kathy Waltz sent out a memo Nov. 8 informing all Sentinel employees of the layoffs, and of the paper's plan to leave unfilled 11 more vacant positions.

The Sentinel isn't alone in its money troubles. Indeed, penny-pinching has run rampant of late in the Tribune Co. empire, which includes some bigger-deal papers like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. In June, the Times fired 20 employees, and forced 42 others into retirement. Newsday, another Trib property, recently fired 100 of its workers, half from the newsroom. The Baltimore Sun is reportedly doing the same thing on a smaller scale.

A real love of the common man was on display in Waltz's get-out memo: "As most of our employees are shareholders, I know everyone wants to see an upward swing in the stock price. I understand the short-term impact this will have on many of us, but in the long run it will help us increase productivity and contribute to an improved financial position," she wrote.

We ran that bit through the Happytown™ CorporateSpeak Translator (pat. pending) and it emerged thusly: "You know that guy in the cubicle next to you, the one with the three kids who's been working here for the last 20 years? He won't be around any more. But your dividend checks might go up a few pennies!"

Orlando Sentinel spokeswoman Ashley Allen says taking into account the paper's 1,350 employees, 9 firings isn't too big a deal.

While she wouldn't tell us who got the ax, she did say that it came from all levels of the Tribune universe. Will the layoffs water down the Sentinel's news coverage? Is that even possible? "A lot of care was taken to minimize any impact," Allen tells us. Whew.

It's already got an acronym – OPAC, which stands for Orlando Performing Arts Center (not to be confused with OPEC). And that means the facility that's been talked to death is back on the fast track … again … via marching orders from Mayor Buddy Dyer.

The first meeting of the OPAC Planning Board happened Nov. 12 in the CNL building. Dyer wants a viable mission and financial plan in six months, tops. Those in attendance, including consultants Larry Goldman, CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, and James Abruzzo of DHR Executive Search, outlined the deal: Basically, it ain't gonna happen without a mainline injection of corporate dollars the likes of which the city has never seen (hello, Disney?). Stay tuned for further developments.

If you're like us and you can no longer stomach the superiority complex of God's gloaters post-Nov. 2, why not hop on the new national bandwagon and move to Canada?

According to a Reuters report, Canada's immigration web page ( experienced six times the normal average daily visits from U.S. citizens the day after Bush won re-election. Just how many are we talking about? On an average day, around 20,000 U.S. citizens log on to the website. But on Nov. 3, 115,016 Amurricans visited the site, almost doubling the previous record high, according to immigration ministry spokesperson Maria ladinardi. (That's no typo, friends; the woman spells her name with a lowercase "L." Crazy Canadians!)

And – get this – in Canada, they like immigrants! "Let's face it, we have a population of a little over 32 million and we definitely need permanent residents to come to Canada," says ladinardi.

And – get this – in Canada, they like gays! According to the website of Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail, a good percentage of the immigrants are expected to come from America's homosexual community.

Referring to it as the "gay drain," the article reports that hundreds of gay and lesbian lawyers, professors, educators and film directors are planning to take up residence in the Great White North. Canada recognizes same-sex unions and benefits. Heathens.

Many defectors, such as Prelude to a Kiss and The Secret Lives of Dentists director Craig Lucas, say they can't take the United States' growing hostility toward homosexuals anymore. "Our rights are slowly being eroded," says Lucas. "It happened in Nazi Germany, the incredible brain drain of artists, scientists and writers who fled to the U.S. Now it's happening here `in the United States`. The government wants gays to live outside the protection of the law."

If ever there was a reason to possibly reconsider your drinking habits, and those that you share them with, we think that the shame implied by something called "The Fat-Ass Ride for Cancer" might just be it.

Seems that Jim Tramontana, a UCF grad student and fat-ass computer guy, tipped back a few with some well-intentioned friends and woke up the next morning with a glorious idea (and a hangover): He would sell advertising space on his flab, ride a bike for 1,000 miles and raise money for the less fortunate.

"We bet Jim that he couldn't ride a bike from UCF to Rollins every day for week," recalls event coordinator and bad friend Ken Turner. "He boasted that he not only could do it for a week, but he could do it for a month."

Here at Happytown™, we know better than to boast about bicycles while falling off the wagon, but we were not consulted. The press release for this event goes on to challenge dignity by adding, "Cat-calls of 'Ride, fat-ass, ride!' are common as Tramontana pedals his bike – christened The Royale With Cheese – toward his 1,000-mile goal."

The whole thing wraps up at Will's Pub on Dec. 23 with "The Fat-Ass Rock Show." We probably won't be there. We're not that fat.


Q: Please explain chaos theory in terms stupid people can understand.

A: I'd be happy to. Chaos theory is a popular buzzword these days, ever since Jeff Goldblum talked it up in that Jurassic Park movie a while back. What chaos theory tries to do is model systems in which small differences in starting conditions make huge differences in outcome.

The classic example used to elucidate this idea comes from Edward Lorenz, from way back in 1960. He was testing a computer model that used a set of equations to predict atmospheric behavior, and found that if he changed the starting conditions of the equations by as little as .0001, the outcomes of the equations were dramatically different. He characterized this difference as the "flapping of a single butterfly's wing." This trivial change could make the difference, in the long term, between a dry, pleasant summer or three hurricanes hitting Florida in a month.

Chaos theory has given us the fractals that create the landscapes filling our computer games and animate the monsters in our major motion pictures. And, of course, chaos theory has given us incredibly geeky jokes that amuse people in computer science labs, such as, "In order to understand recursion, you must first understand recursion."

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• Supersizistan
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• Empire of the Senseless
• He-Man Woman Haters Club
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• Taliban West


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