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Illustration by Pixelgarten

Fast Company

Now February 2009

Coming in February: Super Bowl XLIII, Toy Fair '09, and the transition from analog to digital TV.

February

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Week 1

Sun, February 01
Sweeten
International Sweets and Biscuits Fair
Cologne, Germany

More than 1,600 confectioners show their sugary wares at an event that would make any kid lose his sweet mind. In a bold, contrarian attempt to convince the world that candy isn't totally unhealthy, this year's expo will feature sessions on good-for-you organic treats. We suspect those will be less popular than, say, the free samples of awesomely artificial Nuclear Sludge Bar (from Indiana's Candy Dynamics) or Love Hearts (from Swizzels Matlow of Britain). -- Theunis Bates

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Sun, February 01
Arise
Mike Duke Becomes CEO of Wal-Mart
Bentonville, Arkansas

With America saturated by smiley faces, the $215 billion retailer is beefing up its global presence. No surprise then that Duke, head of its international division, is succeeding H. Lee Scott Jr. as CEO. Overseas sales have been strong; Wal-Mart said in November that non-U.S. quarterly sales were up 11% over 2007 (versus 6% in the U.S.). The company has more big targets in its sights: It next plans to open stores in India. -- Kate Rockwood

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Sun, February 01
Play Football
Super Bowl XLIII
Tampa, Florida

After tickets to the big game are parceled out to the NFL teams, the media, and corporate sponsors, just 1% are left for everyone else -- that is, the general public, or at least the portion of it that can pay up to $1,000 (face value) per ticket. Most of us content ourselves with watching the game on TV: The Super Bowl is the No. 1 at-home party event of the year, leaving even New Year's Eve trailing. That's a bonanza for sales of beer, chips, salsa, and avocados. This year's halftime headliners, Bruce Springsteen and his E-Street Band, hope the Super Bowl effect will extend to their latest album, Working on a Dream, which is -- coincidentally, we're sure -- coming out five days before the game. -- Sara D. Anderson

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Week 2

Tue, February 03
Share
TED2009
Long Beach, California

This ideas fest is bringing back some of its best speakers for its 25th birthday, themed "The Great Unveiling." This slogan refers to the innovations TED promises to premiere, and to its huge new home, the Long Beach Convention Center. The "great" could also be a nod to TED's price tag -- $6,000 per person for the chance to network with the likes of Bill Clinton and Sergey Brin. Too steep? $3,750 buys entrée into a simulcast "satellite" meet in Palm Springs. That's right: $3,750 to mingle with the B-list. -- Anne C. Lee

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Tue, February 03
Build
World of Concrete
Las Vegas

Concrete is the world's most widely used man- made substance. (Throw in natural ones, and it's No. 2, behind only water.) More than 6 billion tons -- a ton for each person on the planet -- is produced every year. World of Concrete will show why, with 80,000 attendees and 900,000 square feet of exhibits. Don't think for a second that this industry is -- oh, we can't resist -- set in concrete. There will be seminars on new decorative techniques for the hard stuff and storm-water-proof concrete. "People are always finding creative new ways to utilize it," says WOC director Tom Cindric, "and make it stronger." -- SDA

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Fri, February 06
Process
50th Anniversary of the Integrated-Circuit Patent

It wasn't the sexiest of races, but, wow, was it important. In the 1950s, the rush to make the first functional integrated circuit was on. The unfortunately named Geoffrey W.A. Dummer, who thought up the idea, couldn't figure out how to make one, so others -- smarter, perhaps -- stepped up. The ones who stepped fastest were Texas Instruments' Jack Kilby and Fairchild Semiconductor's Robert Noyce. But only one could get the first patent. In 1959, Kilby and TI won it, but Noyce's silicon circuit ended up being the prototype on which the microprocessors we now use are based. Not that you should feel too badly for Kilby. He became a pretty wealthy man. And in 2000, he got a consolation prize honoring his achievement: a Nobel Prize in physics. -- Sean Ludwig

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Week 3

Mon, February 09
Log On
User-Generated Content Conference & Expo
San Jose

User-generated content may stoke Web traffic, but the (maybe) multibillion-dollar question is how to turn that into revenue. This new conference will gather experts and pros from across the UGC universe. The talk won't just be speculation, pledges Alan Meckler, CEO of organizer Jupitermedia. IStockphoto founder Bruce Livingston, whom Meckler calls "the first person in the world to think of how to make money with user-generated content," will keynote. His photo site posted revenue of $71.9 million in 2007. And in line with UGC's everyman spirit, the site paid $20.9 million in royalties to contributors. -- ACL

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Tue, February 10
Be Superficial
the Surface Design Show
London

We're tired of the saying "style over substance," so thank goodness for this expo, where designers from firms including Zaha Hadid Architects and HOK get serious about aesthetics. In line with the eco-trend sweeping conferences, this year's show will celebrate materials with a sheen of green. Products on display will include earth-friendly Italian porcelain, old industrial resin turned into ceiling panels, and wallpaper with 30% recycled content. -- Clay Dillow

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Thu, February 12
Say "Woof"
Global Pet Expo
Orlando, Florida

Trot down to this three-day showcase to hear a happy purr from 850 exhibitors. As other sectors languish in the economic doghouse, the pet world is bounding ahead like a golden retriever. Analyst David Lummis of research firm Packaged Facts predicts the $49 billion industry will grow 6% annually through 2013. Pets are apparently recession-proof. In many homes, "animals function as surrogate children," Lummis says. "People are more likely to cut back on purchases for themselves than for their child or pet." -- TB

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Sun, February 15
Play
Toy Fair '09
New York

Get your kung-fu grips ready: Action figures are back! "They were buyers' number-one request," says Marian Bossard, a VP at the Toy Industry Association, the fair's host. If that strikes you as kind of low tech for kids who are wired younger and younger, silly rabbit, these aren't just for kids: "A true action figure is for 18- to 35-year-olds," Bossard explains. The trend is also part of a back-to-basics movement in toys that pushes kids to use their imaginations. "Simpler toys are in," says Justin Discoe, cofounder of Sprig Toys, which debuted its kinetic energy-powered toys at last year's fair. "Let kids fill in the gaps." -- David Lidsky

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Sun, February 15
Watch
NBA All-Star 2009
Phoenix

Pro basketball's 2008 All- Star game was the most- watched ever, drawing 5.2 million viewers. While hoops still lags football and baseball in popularity among U.S. viewers, it's second only to soccer worldwide, due largely to the NBA's aggressive promotion and digital outreach. Take its boosterism of this year's All-Star game: The NBA, which now has 75 international players from 32 nations, encouraged fans to vote online, with ballots offered in 20 languages. For those keeping score, that's a global branding triple-double. -- CD

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Week 4

Tue, February 17
Read
Why We Make Mistakes
By Joseph T. Hallinan

Why We Make Mistakes turns a ton of academic research about how our brains can work against us into a string of cocktail-party nuggets about dum-dums. Make no mistake, this is breezy stuff: You'll learn why French music in a wine store drives us to buy more French wine; how ovulating strippers wring more money out of you during lap dances; and how, if you aren't careful, you could punch a paraplegic in a bar as Burt Reynolds once did. Unfortunately, Hallinan waits until the very end to provide a dollop of insight about prevention, and it boils down to "be happy" and "sweat the small stuff." Mistake. -- DL

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Tue, February 17
Switch
Transition from Analog to Digital TV

Cable and broadcast companies pledged in 2007 to donate $1.2 billion of advertising airtime to spread the word on the analog-to-digital transition. If you have no idea what we're talking about, well, that was wasted money, then, wasn't it? By last August, cable companies had already spent more than their promised $200 million share on telling customers that they don't have to do anything. Meanwhile, the 16% of U.S. TV households who have held out against cable and satellite have gotten bombarded with ads explaining how they'll need $40-and-up digital converters, available at a retailer near you. Rob Stoddard of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association calls the effort "probably the biggest public-service campaign in this decade." Yes, he really did say public service. -- ACL

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Fri, February 20
Create
The Sims 3

If you're more into creating your own characters than watching someone else's, then you're likely familiar with the landmark PC game The Sims, which launched nine years ago to critical acclaim. Within two years, it became the best-selling PC title in history, which it has remained ever since. The latest sequel boasts an entire neighborhood full of diverse characters as well as a slew of new customization options. Our favorite: Create a Sim mode, which lets players make likenesses of themselves or their enemies. We, for instance, are thinking of making a Sim whose profession is stock speculation. Then we would delete the door on his home, so he will starve and never hurt us again. -- SL

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Fri, February 20
Animate
Anima 2009
Brussels, Belgium

The three highest-grossing animated movies of 2007 -- Shrek the Third, Ratatouille, and The Simpsons Movie -- tallied up nearly $2 billion in ticket sales worldwide. Anima, the annual international animation festival, is not for those kinds of movies. Instead, it will focus on more obscure productions from studios in Asia and Europe, which rarely make it to U.S. big screens. The academic part of this conference -- you didn't think these guys just sat around watching cartoons, did you? -- will focus on animation's heritage in the old-fashioned comic strip, for which Belgium, birthplace of the Smurfs and Tintin, is famed. -- SL

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Sun, February 22
Gun It
9th International Defense Exhibition & Conference
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Christmas comes in February for defense contractors. Thanks to its enormous military budget, China is the biggest target for the kinds of companies that will hawk everything from battleships to bullets at this five-day fair. But as a belligerent Iran continues to spook its neighbors, sheikhs and emirs are expected to put on quite a dirham-flashing display. The Saudis, in particular, will likely be buying. According to defense bible Jane's, the kingdom is expected to grow its $38 billion military budget by more than 5% by 2010, making it the world's fastest-growing defense market after China. -- TB

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Week 5

Wed, February 25
Charge Up
Renewable Energy Technology Conference & Exhibition
Las Vegas

Ah, Vegas: the lights! The millions of sparkly, shiny, it-looks-like-it's-day-even-at-night lights! Sin City's electrical consumption means about 1.2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions per year, which makes it the perfect place to explore the promise of renewable energy. Sessions on green jobs and eco-driven venture capital have been added in anticipation of the new management in the White House, specifically that $150 billion investment in renewables that Barack Obama touted during his campaign. That's change the renewable-energy industry wants to believe in -- and cash in on. -- SDA

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Illustration by Pixelgarten

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