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Rallying for nature; partying to be seen; Gator bonds

The cynic in me says the Earth Charter is a pie-in-the-sky idea crafted by someone who had a few too many mushrooms.

The idealist in me says promoting interdependence and a move away from individualism could actually work if we would lose the cynicism. What's wrong with championing respect for nature, human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace?

The stomach in me says a Mise En Place event exploring the tenets of the Earth Charter is worthy of my attention. The famed restaurant is celebrating "Come Together Day," a culmination of community spirit, enlightenment and, of course, decadent creations, Friday at 5:30 p.m.

Louise Harrison, sister of late Beatle George Harrison, will be the guest speaker. Tickets are $35.

A prior commitment kept me from going to Wednesday night's Maxim/Bud Light party at the Florida Aquarium.

Lucky for me, Times staffers Emily Nipps and Susan Thurston agreed to go and report back. From what I gathered, more than 500 of Tampa's most beautiful people swilled on free beer, gazed at scantily clad dancers and looked at fish.

But I'm told fish weren't the only sharks at the party.

People-watching topped the agenda and rumor has it everyone who came with someone wishes they hadn't except for Susan and Emily, of course.

The partiers can look forward to seeing their pictures in an upcoming Maxim issue which will feature a special insert on Tampa Bay issues. It's part of a 24-city campaign.

Gator fans party together, sway together and, every time they play in Tallahassee, commiserate together.

But Craig Neuman is hoping they also will do business together. Neuman and his partners have started Gator Biz Network in the hopes of creating a sort of chamber of commerce made up of UF faithful from the seven-county Tampa Bay area.

Although the Web site ( is in its early stages, it includes a member directory, a jobs section and classifieds. Neuman hopes to have monthly network meetings that feature Gator grads talking business.

"You want to do business with someone you like or someone you have something in common with," Neuman said. "Gator fans, especially in this area, have a strong, passionate bond with each other."

Neuman said if successful, Gator Biz Network could serve as a template for similar organizations affiliated with schools or professional teams.

It does not take long for a visitor to realize holding a job in this tourist haven is no easy task. Just ask Mikhail Dorofeyev, a deputy editor for Kazakstan's Express K newspaper.

"I don't know how you manage to go to work when everyone here is on vacation," Dorofeyev said.

Tampa Bay's Visiting International Professionals Program hosted Dorofeyev and Sayassat Beisbayev, a reporter for Kazakstan's Radio Azattyk this week. The reporters toured the area, including the Times, and met with the Tampa Bay International Business Council.

VIPP has brought 50 visitors from 16 countries over the past two years. Mary Ellen Upton, executive director of the VIPP program, said the goal is to foster good relationships with foreign nations and spur more international trade with Tampa Bay businesses. The program is operated through the U.S. Department of State.

Is it just me, or does someone else out there think Tampa Bay's radio stations need to offer better billboards? The stations seem to think the only way to attract listeners is with tight T-shirts and bikini bottoms. On a recent trip down I-275, my son said this is the highway with all the women in swimsuits.

WLLD-FM 98.7 went a step farther, giving us a naked male DJ with a Wild 98.7 sign strategically placed over his lower torso. Look, I'm not opposed to waking up on the "wild side," but I don't think that billboard passes the breakfast test.

That's all I'm saying.

_ Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or