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Illustration by Owen Gildersleeve

Fast Company Recommended Events December 2009

December

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Tue, December 01
Expand
CityCenter opens Las Vegas

Six high-rise towers by eight renowned architects. Sixty-seven acres on the Vegas strip. Casinos, hotels, condos, theaters, galleries, and a shopping mall. It sounds worthy of once-booming Dubai, and for good reason: Dubai World, the firm behind enormous, egregious bubble-era projects like the Palm Islands, owns a 50% stake in City-Center. (MGM Mirage has the other half.) The $8.5 billion complex, touted by its builders as the most expensive commercial development in U.S. history, begins its rollout of openings with the Vdara Hotel & Spa. We hope it'll fare better than similar developments in Dubai like, well, the whole emirate, but things aren't looking sparkly — condo prices at CityCenter were slashed by 30% in October, and travel to Vegas is down 6% in 2009. — ZACHARY WILSON

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Tue, December 01
Save
World Aids Day

This year's theme is "Universal Access and Human Rights," but maybe it should be "Donate Now — or Else." Of the 9.7 million HIV/AIDS sufferers in developing countries who need antiretroviral therapy, less than a third are getting it. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria intends to put 2.7 million people on the treatment in the next year, but the recession has hurt its chances of doing so — the organization is facing a $4 billion budget short-fall. A glimmer of hope from the supply side: In August, Bill Clinton announced an agreement with drugmakers Pfizer and Mylan's Matrix Labs to lower prices on key meds by as much as 60% in developing countries. — ANNE C. LEE

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Tue, December 01
Float
Oasis of the Seas Sets Sail Fort Lauderdale, Florida

You can't describe Royal Caribbean's new flagship without splashing on the superlatives. The Oasis of the Seas is the longest (1,187 feet), tallest (240 feet), widest (208 feet), heaviest (225,000 gross registered tons), and most expen-sive ($1.4 billion) passenger ship ever launched. As its 6,296 guests (that's 40% more than the next biggest boat) cruise the Caribbean, they can entertain themselves with a glut of floating firsts, from the outdoor, tree-lined park to a cocktail bar in an elevator to performances of Hairspray in the 1,350-seat theater. The only thing this pleasure ark lacks? Animals, two of each. — THEUNIS BATES

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Tue, December 01
Click
25th anniversary of the first mandatory seat-belt law in the u.s.

Live free or die, indeed: Twenty-five years after the first state law requiring buckling up took effect in New York, only New Hampshire still lacks one. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the economic benefits of seat-belt laws — in dollars saved from prevented injuries and deaths — exceeds $3 billion per year. So why is New Hampshire holding out? "The small minority who are against it are very passionate," says state representative Sally Kelly, sponsor of the latest proposed seat-belt law. The Union Leader, New Hampshire's largest newspaper, wrote an editorial earlier this year claiming, "There will be no stopping the flood of laws that will come, all to protect us from ourselves." If only it were so easy. — ZW

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Fri, December 04
Rap Up
Jay-Z turns 40

The self-proclaimed God of Rap has lots to celebrate. Jay-Z earned $35 million over the past year — mostly from a sold-out world tour and his stakes in the New Jersey Nets and 40/40 bar chain — making him hip-hop's top player, according to Forbes. (No. 2 Diddy tallied $30 million.) It looks like 2010 will be another bumper year for Jay-Z Inc. Parlux, which did perfumes for Jessica Simpson and Queen Latifah, recently inked a licensing deal with his firm Iconic Fragrances to release signature scents for Rihanna and Kanye West. (A Jay-Z cologne will follow in 2011.) While other celebs usually take perfume payments in cash, Jay-Z requested stock, which could make Iconic a major Parlux shareholder. He wasn't boasting when he rapped, "Every deal I ever made set precedent." Okay, maybe a little bit. — TB

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Mon, December 07
Create
Humanoids09 Paris

This four-day conference is all about pushing the robotic envelope, building humanoids that are more like their creators and in the process teaching us a thing or two about human movement and speech. But what we really want to know is: When can we expect those creatures to become part of our day to day? Japan, that land of aging elders, is at the forefront of using humanoids as home-health aides, servants, and even sex partners. But French startup Aldebaran is most likely to swoop into American homes first: Its 2-foot-tall humanoid Nao, who is already reading aloud and recognizing faces and giggling into its cute three-fingered hands in robotics labs around the world, will hit the consumer market in 2010. No word yet on the ethics of putting Nao to work to pay off its own $15,000 price tag. — KATE ROCKWOOD

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Mon, December 07
Cool It
United Nations Climate Change Conference Copenhagen, Denmark

After 12 days of heated wrangling, world leaders should emerge from this meeting with a new treaty to combat global warming. Or maybe not: We wouldn't be shocked if U.S. negotiators, spooked by the potential effect of carbon cuts on the fragile economy, refused to back a deal. (That's the official reason that the planet's No. 2 polluter — China is now No. 1 — never ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol.) A quick study of host nation Denmark might help allay American fears. The Scandinavian nation's economy grew by 45% between 1990 and 2007, while carbon-dioxide emissions fell 13%, thanks to high energy taxes and generous subsidies for clean tech. Green energy is now a major moneymaker for the Danes: Its wind-power firms, which control 40% of the global market, generated a breezy $8 billion in exports last year. — TB

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Mon, December 07
Protect
Vaccine Technology Conference London

The 1950s and 1960s were momentous for drug manufacturers, which introduced vaccines for polio, measles, mumps, and a host of other diseases. Over time, though, many pharmaceutical companies deemphasized vaccines in favor of prescription drugs. Today, according to the organizers of this conference, "we stand poised for the second golden era of vaccines." Researchers will discuss an array of novel delivery techniques (patches, sprays) as well as new targets (cancer, addiction). And necessity may prove to be the mother of not just invention but also attention: Because of the global swine flu fright, the urgent quest to find a prophylaxis for the H1N1 virus has put vaccines firmly on the public agenda. — ERICA WESTLY

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Mon, December 07
Search
Search-Engine Strategies '09 Chicago

What's today's best search-engine strategy? "Look beyond the search engines," says What Would Google Do? author Jeff Jarvis, who will give a keynote address at this event. Traditionally, companies looking to get discovered online have stocked their Web sites with buzzwords to "optimize" them for Google and Yahoo. But now that Twitter link-trimmer bit.ly is generating just as many clicks as Google News — roughly 1 billion each month — Jarvis says marketers have a choice: "They can generate conversation [within social media], where real humans discuss fresh information, or stick with Google, where content ferments like wine and cheese." Sounds del.icio.us. — DAN MACSAI

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Tue, December 08
Organize
Expo! Expo! 2009 Atlanta

If you're wondering why the International Association of Exhibitions and Events stages an event about staging events, you're not alone. "I've tried explaining it to my elderly mother," says IAEE president Steven Hacker. "She never understands." We do: Some 13,000 exhibitions and trade shows occur each year in the U.S., and events are a $100 billion business. But tighter corporate-travel budgets mean that business is hurting. No wonder 1,500 sector leaders will meet to laugh (with funnyman Dale Irvin) and learn (from social-media guru Guy Kawasaki). Says Hacker: "They're attending an event ... to the second power." — DM

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Wed, December 09
Rejuvenate
World Anti-Aging Congress Las Vegas

With 77 million boomers marching toward early-bird specials and Viagra-fueled nights, the anti-aging business is ... booming. But let's look past the (wrinkle-free) surface of the $56 billion industry: The real growth has been in bolstering the deteriorating insides of the aging. Soaring sales of an alphabet soup of supplements (vitamins D, C, E, omega-3, DHEA), exercise gear, and hormone replacements have given new life to the sector, if not, as buyers hope, to themselves. — KR

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Fri, December 18
Gawk
AVATAR Directed by James Cameron

According to Hollywood hype, James Cameron's Avatar — a blockbuster tale pitting blue, loincloth-clad aliens against human invaders — will kick-start the 3-D age of film. But if the Titanic director's sci-fi spectacular is going to make back its $200 million — plus budget, his visual tricks had better look good in 2-D too. Today, only 9% of the world's 110,000 cinema screens are 3-D enabled, according to a recent Dodona Research report. Since an extra dimension costs a theater owner around $100,000 per screen, 3-D uptake isn't likely to soar until the economy gets rolling. For the time being, flat is where it's at. — TB

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Fri, December 18
Give
National Regifting Day

Two points about regifting: First, if Jacqueline Onassis did it, how tacky could it be? In 1971, she gave her second husband, Aristotle Onassis, a watch once owned by JFK that had been a gift from a socialite couple. It was recently auctioned for more than $150,000. Second, regifting is smart, not just for your pocketbook but also for the earth. According to a survey by research firm Money Management International, the second-most-popular reason for regifting was a desire to recycle. (The first was saving on holiday expenses.) No, we don't buy that excuse, either, but one more reindeer sweater and we'll probably try it too. — ACL

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Sun, December 20
Commemorate
10th Anniversary of Chinese sovereignty in Macau Macau

After nearly 500 years as a Portuguese colony, Macau returned to Chinese rule in 1999. The territory has always technically been connected to China — it is, after all, primarily a peninsula — but in other ways, the two are worlds apart. As the Chinese government says, it's "one country, two systems." Nowhere is this more apparent than in Macau's casinos, where gambling giants Las Vegas Sands and Wynn generate more than two-thirds of their worldwide revenues, up from zero a decade ago. A huge percentage of Macau's gaming tourists come from mainland China, where gambling is illegal. Last year, in an effort to curb excessive gambling, China began limiting its citizens to one Macau visit every three months, which seems to have forced gamblers to double down. After a recession-induced slump in early 2009, casino revenue rose 12% in August from the year before to set a monthly record of $1.4 billion; in September, it leaped 53% from the same month in 2008. And in October, Wynn capitalized on the Chinese passion for games of chance with a new one: It launched an IPO on Hong Kong's exchange. — EW

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Sat, December 26
Treat
National Candy Cane Day

Sweet-toothed consumers will spend $214 million on candy canes this holiday season — 2 billion of them in all. Sales are expected to be up 2% over last year — growth that Dylan Lauren, founder of the New York sugar palace Dylan's Candy Bar, ascribes to the candy cane's consummate affordability. "People are thinking about every penny," she says. Confectioners are feeling the pinch, too, as sugar prices reach a 28-year high, the result of poor harvests in the world's two largest sugar producers, India (too little rain) and Brazil (too much). We can think of just the thing to cheer them up: a candy cane. — STEPHANIE SCHOMER

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Thu, January 07
Cheer
BCS National Championship Game Pasadena, California

America hates the Bowl Championship Series. Even its fans acknowledge that college football still doesn't have fair postseason matchups, and President Obama has called for an eight-team playoff, saying he's "fed up" with the BCS's computerized rankings system. But love it or hate it, one part of the system's value is undeniable: Last season, the BCS bowl games brought more than $1.2 billion in economic activity to the four host cities. This year, Pasadena will see an extra trail of tourists and cash as it hosts both the Rose Bowl and the National Championship Game — the city of just 145,000 will welcome nearly 700,000 hot-dog-chomping, sweatshirt-buying, hotel-room-filling visitors in a week. Touchdown! — SS

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Thu, January 07
Geek Out
Consumer Electronics Show Las Vegas

Every year, thousands of geeks gather in Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show, the world's largest consumer technology trade show. This year's keynote speakers feature regulars such as Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer and newcomers including Zhou Huajian, the chairman of Chinese consumer-electronics giant Hisense. But the real stars of CES are the gadgets. Last year, the Palm Pre became the first mobile device to take home the Best in Show prize. This year, watch out for e-books. In June, CES announced the creation of a new area devoted entirely to e-book technology; by September, all the available stalls were sold out. — EW

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Tue, January 12
Sing
American Idol Season 9 Hollywood, California

In its eighth season, the television juggernaut that is American Idol brought in an incredible $850 mil-lion in advertising revenue and attracted a Nielsen-topping 27 million viewers per episode. The bad news: Ad revenue was down more than 5% from season 7, and viewership was down 7%. As its ninth season debuts, Idol is swapping one brand of zany (Paula Abdul) for another (Ellen DeGeneres) in an attempt to regain some of its lost mojo. Will it work? Don't ask me. I'm still bitter about Adam Lambert. — SS

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Wed, January 20
Seal
National Pavement Expo Nashville, Tennessee

For the 2,000 attendees at this annual road show, the recession could have been one giant pothole. "When the economy goes bad, the guys who usually work on highways and state roads step down into the smaller pavement markets, so there's less work for the smaller businesses," says expo organizer Allan Heydorn. Thank goodness for federal stimulus funds, up to $30 billion of which are for road projects. "Some of those people who had stepped down are now going back to the roadwork," Heydorn reports. To which we can only respond: Smooth move, President Obama! — ZW

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Thu, January 21
Do It Yourself
Sundance Film Festival Park City, Utah

When the Sundance Film Festival started in 1985, it was rare for independent directors to have their films picked up by major studios. Not anymore, and in recent years the festival has acquired a more mainstream Hollywood vibe, complete with way too many Paris Hilton spottings. For the 2010 edition, the festival's organizers are returning to their humble roots with a new out-of-competition section called "Next," showcasing low- and no-budget feature films. Call it a redeclaration of independence. "Now there's a new wave of using nontraditional ways to distribute film," says Sundance programming director Trevor Groth, "and we want to support that." — EW

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Wed, January 27
Slaughter
Cattle Industry Annual Convention and Trade Show San Antonio

Beef lovers, take note: The 6,000 ranchers at this bovine confab may not look like power brokers, but they're ultimately in charge of a $76 billion industry — and the products that land on your plates. Lately, they worry, too little of it is Angus or Kobe (not that they're having a cow about it). "We've seen a lot of evidence that though people may have been holding off on fine dining lately, they're anxious to return as the economy strengthens," says Tom Field, executive director of producer education for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association. To help cattlemen (and women) help diners back to the table, former Waldorf-Astoria executive chef John Doherty will be teaching a session on leadership. These are some high steaks. — ZW

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Wed, January 27
Strategize
World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos, Switzerland

Hello, home-court advantage! According to new data from the World Economic Forum, Switzerland — which hosts the WEF's annual meeting — has the most competitive economy in the world, besting the second-ranked United States, which had held the top spot since 2004. "The U.S. government has been spending beyond its means for a long time," says WEF senior economist Jennifer Blanke, "and the stimulus packages have only increased its debt." Blanke suggests that boosting the savings rate in the U.S. — as has happened over the past year — will help. But China, which comes in No. 29 on the list, could assist by persuading its consumers to buy American and "take the cash out from under their mattresses." Or maybe we could just move the WEF to America. — DM

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Thu, January 28
Seek
iDate internet dating conference Miami

This conference makes us think of those happy couples in the eHarmony ads (gag), but the side of Internet dating that most of us don't see is actually the most financially successful. The biggest casual-fling sites, such as Adult FriendFinder, each attract 20 million monthly visitors — nearly quadruple the typical tally at a major relationship-focused site like eHarmony — who shell out $30 a month to take part. Sites that serve niche audiences cost even more: The Ashley Madison Agency targets married folks with the motto "Life is short, have an affair" — for $60 a month. Industry analyst Mark Brooks says more women have started visiting adult-dating sites because that's where the men are. "There's a saying — guys lie about wanting long-term relationships, and women lie about wanting short-term relationships," he says. Ah, lust. — SS

Illustration by Owen Gildersleeve

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