Better-organized than the pagans, more regularly scheduled than the belly dancers, and more committed than wine enthusiasts, poets, or people with ADHD, Broward County atheists have a meetup group to be reckoned with. With 104 members and a weekly meeting that hopscotches around various pubs and restaurants in Davie, the group is part secularist society, part singles get-together, and part homegrown church substitute for the godless. Its members promote "logic and reason as basis for beliefs" and entice newbies with offers of "drink, some good food, and lively conversation." At their weekly non-Sunday meeting (usually held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays or Wednesdays), Broward Atheists form a lively community where potlucks are shared, anti-God (and anti-Bush) harangues are aired, and non-God-oriented group activities such as highway litter cleanups are planned. The group has even spawned its own website, www.browardatheists.com. While some might suspect that the Broward Atheists are merely a cover for closeted Democrats to mingle with like-minded folk without revealing their political affiliations, the atheists themselves say that they are simply creating a haven for freethinkers of all stripes in a land that's obsessed with God. But whatever their underlying motives, their success in the world of meetups is clearly unparalleled.
South Florida has worked hard earning its reputation for making noses shapelier, chests bigger, and chins tauter. Culture, schmulture -- give us the lipo, Botox, and scalpel any day of the week. But it's hard to keep up with the Joneses when you're a working-class stiff just trying to save enough cash for a trip to Disney World. Thankfully, credit card companies feel your pain and are now offering credit cards specifically tailored toward plastic surgery. For example, Capital One's card provides loans of $1,500 to $25,000 for up to 60 months. Interest rates vary from 1.9 to 23.9 percent. GE Consumer Finance offers a card called CareCredit that also provides the financial high road to higher brows.
Tired of shelling out hundreds of dollars every year to Microsoft for a buggy Windows operating system ($299) and Office suite ($399) that crash at inopportune times? Let the men and women at Florida Linux User Exchange (FLUX) show you an alternative: Linux, a free (free!), open-source PC operating system developed by a community of programmers from throughout the world. Once the operating system of choice for the world's geekiest geeks, Linux has matured into a true, user-friendly Windows replacement -- complete with point-and-click interface and plug-and-play compatibility. Plus, a variety of other Linux-compatible software packages -- such as Microsoft Office replacement OpenOffice (free!) and Adobe PhotoShop competitor the GIMP (free!) -- have allowed Linux to become a do-any-task alternative to Bill Gates' clunky but ubiquitous operating system. Compared to Windows, Linux is a virtual Fort Knox -- immune to all Windows viruses and worms. Interested in switching? Just hook up with FLUX, whose members are more than happy to help computer novices and geniuses alike. FLUX meets at 6:30 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Nova Southeastern University in Davie. "We are a pretty friendly bunch and always welcome new faces," says Adam Glass, one of a small group of people who founded FLUX in 1997. "The presentation topics range from basic to advanced," Glass says. "Some are given by FLUX members and others by technical experts who are visiting South Florida." So if you're ready to finally dump Bill Gates, pack up your computer and head to the next FLUX meeting. They'll help you get up and running with Linux in no time -- and, of course, no charge.
The past year was filled with so many memorable utterances perfectly reflecting the place and time in which we live that choosing a winner is pretty tough. First, there was Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper, who earlier this year threw a hissy fit during a City Commission meeting about those opposing plans for building the 66-acre Village at Gulfstream Park. With a straight face, the mayor of the most overdeveloped, strip-malled, condo-canyoned town in the county howled, "Hallandale finally has an opportunity for crucial economic development." Then there was this honey from Randy Johnson, a state representative shilling for a law that would penalize municipalities for failing to trim trees in front of billboards for the sake of beauty. "Tourism," he declared, "depends on billboards, not on trees." But the winner has to go to that most quotable of public officials, Hollywood Mayor Mara Giulianti, who keeps alive the dream of squelching government by and for the people. In an effort to expel a synagogue from a residential area, the City Commission met behind closed doors to avoid any public debate and "pre-decide" its vote. Earlier this year, a transcript of that meeting was made public through a lawsuit filed by the congregation. Giulianti instructed her colleagues: "Let me ask each person, because we don't put it on the agenda for us to decide until we know we have some kind of consensus. Otherwise, we have an argument until 6:30 in the morning and a whole bunch of people getting up and talking about it."
Every Florida driver has been held up by boat traffic. It's frustrating, sticking to your sweaty seat as some millionaire in a yacht stops traffic for miles. That's why the swing bridge in Sailboat Bend -- one of only 14 in the United States -- turns the gridlock into a refreshing pause. To open, the manually operated bridge is spun on its center pivot, and the span moves (slowly) 90 degrees to let boat traffic pass. Not many boats ply this short stretch of the river, and when they do, they pass by quickly. Watching the levers and gears turn on this old (built in 1927) bridge is far better than waiting for a glimpse of the Jungle Queen's upper deck through a cloud of bus exhaust. It's a slice of slow-paced, old-school history in a town that's nothing if not fast and new.
It's Broward traffic's version of the perfect effing storm: An I-95 exit that runs straight to the county's biggest condo canyon on A1A, along the way passing a Wal-Mart, Gulfstream Race Track, a Publix plaza, two Winn-Dixies, and more Walgreenses than you can shake an empty prescription bottle at. One exit to the south is Ives Dairy Road, an artery so overburdened, its off-ramp jams the freeway even on weekends and affects Hallandale Beach Boulevard as well. The stoplights here are mistimed, leaving huge swaths of the westbound lanes empty while SUVs honk at one another to advance into the intersections at congested green lights. Things were really bad for the past seven months of 2005, when the Florida Department of Transportation set about carving up the road, forcing lane closures. After a brief tourist-season hiatus, the orange cones will be back through late fall, with high temperatures drawing the good people of Miramar and Pembroke Pines to the beaches. Oh, and the construction? FDOT is merely improving the appearance of the road and medians, not increasing the road's capacity, unless you count the bike lanes planned for the truly suicidal among us.
Fort Lauderdale native Mike Mularkey could be exactly what the long-struggling Miami Dolphins need: a guy who knows how to score touchdowns and has absolutely zero reverence for convention. The 'Fins' new offensive coordinator, Mularkey is a University of Florida graduate who played a short stint in the NFL as a tight end before becoming the Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive coordinator in 2001. It was in the steel city that Mularkey earned the nickname that sticks with him to this day: Inspector Gadget. In Pittsburgh, Mularkey designed a book of trick plays using Hines Ward and Antwan Randle-El. His dynamic offense earned him a top job with the Buffalo Bills in 2004, where Mularkey struggled for two years, finishing 9-7 in 2004 and 5-11 in 2005. In January, Mularkey resigned as the Bills' head coach, citing disagreements with team management, and signed up to become Nick Saban's offensive coordinator. If anyone has the ability to jumpstart Miami's sluggish offense, it's the 44-year-old Inspector Gadget. Besides, Mularkey has a good incentive: He's finally coaching his hometown team.
For those who watch professional wrestling -- even those who won't admit it -- Fort Lauderdale native Amy Dumas is a badass. Better-known by her ring name "Lita," the 31-year-old Dumas is a high-flying, take-it-to-the-mat warrior for World Wrestling Entertainment's RAW. Intrigued by the story lines in professional wrestling, Dumas worked her way up the wrestling ladder from minor-league rings in Mexico to Extreme Championship Wrestling to the wrestling big time, WWE. She established a loose alliance with one of South Florida's other well-known wrestlers -- former University of Miami footballer the Rock -- and quickly ascended to become one of WWE's premier acrobatic talents. In 2000, Dumas won the WWE Women's Championship and rivaled Chyna (you know, the one who went porn) as wrestling's top vixen. But in April 2002, her wrestling career was put on hold. While performing a stunt for the TV show Dark Angel, Dumas suffered an injury, breaking three vertebrae in her neck and requiring surgery. Sidelined from wrestling for 15 months as a result, Dumas could have traveled the world and taken it easy on the beach. She didn't. Instead, she started volunteering at an animal hospital near her home in Sanford, North Carolina, and formed a charity, ADORE (Amy Dumas Operation Rescue & Education), which provides adoption and education services for pets and pet owners. Dumas uses her notoriety to educate the public and gain access to government leaders. ADORE provides educational materials to a variety of agencies and has established a spay/neuter program for pet owners who cannot afford veterinary bills. But don't let Dumas' charity work fool you into thinking she's done with wrestling. In January, Lita returned to the ring -- pinning her opponent to the mat and proving that she's still a badass.

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