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Fast Company Recommended Events November 2009
Illustration by Alice Cho
Illustration by Alice Cho


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Week 2

mon, november 02
International Congress on Biological Invasions
Fuzhou, China

Incoming! Every year, the gypsy moth, zebra mussel, and other invaders do more than $130 billion in damage to U.S. agriculture, forests, rangelands, and fisheries. Worldwide, that figure soars past $1 trillion. "Part of the problem," says University of Tennessee ecology professor Daniel Simberloff, who will give a keynote address in Fuzhou, "is that, at most meetings, people tend to focus on what [the invaders] are doing, not how we can deal with them." Case in point: While much ado has been made about New York grappling with Asian long-horned beetles, which have been devouring trees since 1996, Chicago — which was infested two years later — has wholly eradicated the bugs by rigorously monitoring the spread and quarantining wood from infected areas. At this first-ever congress, Simberloff plans to share similar success stories in an attempt to shift the focus. "There's no silver bullet," he says, "but there are possible solutions." — DAN MACSAI

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tue, november 03
Sandwich Day

On the 291st birthday of John Montagu, fourth Earl of Sandwich, we honor the classic combo named after the British aristocrat who, according to legend, ordered a piece of meat tucked between two pieces of bread. Others soon requested "the same as Sandwich," spawning what is now a $22.7-billion-and-growing business in the U.S. We do wonder whether Montagu would feel comfortable eating at the sector's undisputed giant, Subway, which has nearly 22,000 locations and some $10 billion in annual sales. Maybe we should name Jared the new Earl of Sandwich. — ZACHARY WILSON

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tue, november 03
By Ken Auletta

"If we solve search," Google cofounder Larry Page told a class at Stanford in 2002, "that means you can answer any question. Which means you can do basically anything." Googled tells the story of the search rocket's relentless ambition and how it has upended every corner of the media business. Auletta creates an engrossing narrative from this clash between Google's engineering mind-set and old media's grip on the buggy whip of the status quo. Although Google appears indomitable, he identifies several potential Achilles' heels, from naïveté to arrogance to a chaotic management structure. And from the company's myriad initiatives, he hints that the most important to watch is whether Google can successfully monetize YouTube. If it can do so, then, as CEO Eric Schmidt says, "that's the creation of the equivalent of the CBS network in the 1950s." If not, we may remember it as the company's MySpace moment. — DAVID LIDSKY

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tue, november 03
Soya and Oilseed Summit 2009
New Orleans

The U.S. expects its largest-ever soybean crop this year: 3.2 billion bushels, enough to make 77 pounds of tofu for each person on the planet. Still, that might not be adequate, given rising demand for meat — and thus animal feed — in the developing world, plus new and increasing interest in using soybeans and other oilseeds for biofuels. But we've only got so much farmland, a predicament that will be a hot topic in New Orleans. "If you give more space to corn, you have to take space from soybeans. If you give more space to soybeans, it has to take from another crop," says Soyatech CEO Chris Erickson. "It's sort of like pushing your finger into a balloon. Somewhere else is going to bubble up." — STEPHANIE SCHOMER

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wed, november 04
World Architecture Festival
Barcelona, Spain

Cars and airplanes may get tarred with a reputation as energy hogs, but the biggest culprits are buildings. Keeping our offices and homes lit, heated, and cooled accounts for a staggering 72% of electricity consumption and 38% of all carbon emissions in the U.S. That explains why green building is now more than just a trend — it's becoming a requirement. At this year's World Architecture Festival, nearly all of the showcased projects were designed with sustainability in mind. For instance, New Zealand's Yellow Treehouse Restaurant was built halfway up a redwood with locally harvested wood beams. Eco-consciousness is adding a new layer to how we erect structures, says program director Paul Finch: "It's changing the way people fundamentally think about buildings" and how we regard environments — not just the ones we construct but also those we disrupt in the process. — ANNE C. LEE

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thu, november 05
International Conference on Occupational Stress and Health
San Juan, Puerto Rico

Is it ironic or just delightfully apropos that, for four days, the tony Caribe Hilton Hotel will swarm with academics, labor leaders, and HR types studying the vein-popping levels of angst currently afflicting employees? (Some 67% of adults say work is a major source of worry, according to the American Psychological Association, up from 62% a year ago.) We're sure all that anxious chatter will raise attendees' stress levels. Mercifully, they'll be able to soothe themselves in the venue's "beautiful oceanfront swimming pools" and "17 acres of lush tropical gardens," or doze off in "hammocks next to the secluded beach." If only all workplaces were this serene. — THEUNIS BATES

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fri, november 06
UFO Crash Retrieval Conference
Las Vegas

Aliens are good for American innovation. No, we're not talking about low-wage migrants, but the little green men who keep crashing into the desert. A few brave UFO spotters at this conspiracy congress will explain how the military has used tech salvaged from space wrecks to develop gravity-defying drones. (Warning: That may not be true.) Of course, these truth seekers never know if the Men in Black are listening, so it's understandable that organizers specify in the schedule that delegates eat "lunch on your own." As Agent Mulder said: Trust no one. — TB

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sat, november 07
American Public Health Association annual meeting

The APHA's choice of water as its theme this year — the "21st-century challenge," the group says — may make you think of drought in India or desertification in Africa. But it wants you to think about you: A clean water supply is becoming a major problem in industrialized countries. The aging pipes in the U.S.'s creaky water system could potentially corrode in as little as 20 years, according to water expert Tim Ford of the University of New England. There are already some 240,000 water-main breaks each year, with 1.7 trillion gallons of water lost. To fix the system, we'll need to invest more than $200 billion over the next two decades. This year's federal stimulus plan ponied up just $6 billion — a drop in the proverbial bucket. — ACL

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Week 3

mon, november 09
20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall

When pro-democracy protesters smashed through the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, they shattered Communism's grip on Central and Eastern Europe. But not all the region's residents will be celebrating this anniversary. According to a recent survey, up to 40% of them believe that life was better before the fall of the wall, a feeling fueled by high unemployment rates and tepid wage growth; in 1989, the average Central European's income was half of a Western European's, and today, it's 60%. Before yearning for the good old days, though, the nostalgic should heed Jan Grzebski, a Polish railway worker who fell unconscious in 1988 and woke up 19 years later. "When I went into a coma, meat was rationed." Now, he said, "there are so many goods in the shops it makes my head spin... . I've got nothing to complain about." — TB

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tues, november 10
Plug In
Munich, Germany

Innovative production techniques for electronics — and the microelectronics inside those electronics — are the focus of this 40,000-person trade show, the largest global gathering of its kind. We hope that some exhibitors will be showing breakthroughs meant to slash the industry's toxicity. For all the talk of our carbon footprint, we often neglect our cadmium and lead ones. Each year, the UN says, we produce up to 50 million tons of electronic waste — that's 205 million computers, 140 million cell phones, and 27 million TVs in the Dumpster — laden with heavy metals and toxic chemicals. That sobering thought is (almost) enough to snuff out the glow of our new Kindle. — ZW

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tues, november 10
Congress of Cities
San Antonio

Public officials seem to spend lots of time — and public money — jetting here and there, attending this conference or that, networking with one another. What good does it do? Quite a bit, says Mayor Ted Ellis of Bluffton, Indiana. A few years back, Ellis met Charles Penny, assistant city manager of Rocky Mount, North Carolina, at this National League of Cities convention. Rocky Mount had just recovered from a flood. Later, when Ellis found his own city facing a flood, he remembered Penny. "As a mayor, the first thing you really want to do is jump in and start picking up sticks, but I sat down and called Charles," Ellis said. "By taking his advice, we saved tens of thousands of dollars and better utilized our own resources and time." That's community. — SS

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tues, november 10
KioskCom Self-Service Expo
New York

We're entering the age of the kiosk: By 2013, self- service transactions could top $1.5 trillion. DIY machines are fueling profit growth at companies such as Coinstar, which bought DVD-rental leader Redbox and its 15,000 locations last year and expects 2009 revenues of $1.3 billion, up 43% from 2008. Kiosks are getting fancier, too, allowing more options than the traditional vending machine, "whose sole purpose was to dispense cold beverages," says Coca-Cola global marketing manager Anthony Phillips. He says today's high-tech kiosks "create a digital space where consumers can interact with products," putting the "custom" into customer. — DM

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sat, november 14
APEC Singapore 2009

"Four adjectives in search of a noun." That's how former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans once described Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the loose association of 21 countries around the Pacific Rim. Glancing at the agenda for this year's summit — where Barack Obama will make his APEC debut — it's easy to see why: There's a leaders' meeting (to set "the strategic direction of APEC"), an unveiling ceremony for a Berlin Wall installation ("to commemorate the founding of APEC," which also happened in 1989, though nowhere near the Berlin Wall), and a 20th anniversary symposium ("to reflect on the founding of APEC"). We'd pat APEC on the back for setting this up, but we're pretty sure they've got that covered. — DM

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Week 4

mon, november 16
Brownfields 2009
New Orleans

There are more than 400,000 brownfields in the United States. (Brownfield, n., a property abandoned because of the presence of a contaminant.) That's nearly $2 trillion of underused or undervalued land. The investors, developers, and officials at Brownfields 2009 will discuss ways to revitalize these sites. Doing so can add a punch of green to both the environment and the economy. For example, with an EPA cleanup grant, the Biomedical Research Foundation of Northwest Louisiana is building a new lab facility on a Shreveport brownfield. The $25 million project will eventually create 300 new jobs. — SS

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tue, november 17
Deepsec In-Depth Security Conference
Vienna, Austria

Firms spent $5.5 billion on firewalls, virus scanners, and biometric ID checkers last year, but one vital business asset remains woefully hackable: employees. "Humans are the weakest link in the security chain," says Sharon Conheady, director of the U.K.'s First Defense Information Security, who'll teach corporate geeks at this summit how to deflect "social engineering" swindles. These low-tech, highly effective scams take advantage of people's naturally trusting (read: gullible) behavior to access sensitive data. So a trickster might call an employee pretending to be an IT engineer and ask for passwords and user names, or befriend smokers outside a building and follow them to their offices. The take-home message? The paranoiacs (see November 6) are right: Never talk to strangers. — TB

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thu, november 19
World Congress on Disabilities Expo
Jacksonville, Florida

When selecting a site for the WCD's 10th annual conference, accessibility was an obvious issue. Of the hundreds of convention centers in the U.S., "there are only about 14 exhibit halls where the meeting space and the show floor are on the same level," says WCD president Bill Schwaninger. So all credit to Jacksonville, which, he notes, also has a monorail system that gives disabled riders an 80% discount off its usual 50-cent-a-ride fare. "What they have done in this city," he says, "just makes sense." — ZW

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Week 5

mon, november 23
ICSID World Design Congress Singapore 2009

For its 50th anniversary, the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design is going cross-disciplinary, inviting experts in fields as varied as architecture, technology, and global energy to delve into areas that you might not imagine to be typical design fodder, including entertainment, health, and transportation. They've been prepping for the meet by redesigning the way we think in all these fields. So, for instance, MIT Media Lab professor Bill Mitchell is heading up the "studio" on electric vehicles, "Reinventing the Automobile 2050." Drawing ideas from team members in various industries, they've come up with the stylish two-seater CityCar, a collapsible, stackable car designed to be deployed much like cycles in a bike-sharing program. Which is great, except that we hope we don't really have to wait until 2050. — ACL

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wed, november 25
The Princess and the Frog
Directed by Ron Clements and John Musker

The Princess and the Frog is Disney's first traditionally animated feature film since 2004's Home on the Range, which eked out just $50 million at the domestic box-office; the first fairy tale we've heard of in which a princess (voiced by Dreamgirls' Anika Noni Rose) kisses a frog, then becomes one; and features a Disney cartoon's first black leading lady. Is this departure as risky as it sounds? "No," says Jeff Block, a box-office analyst with the movie-tracking firm Exhibitor Relations. "Disney pushed the envelope even further with Up, a kids' movie centered around an 80-year-old, and got its biggest hit since Finding Nemo." — DM

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wed, november 25
Be Thankful
The Day before Thanksgiving

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may steal the spotlight, but how about some love for the day before the really big day? Thanksgiving eve is the second-biggest sales day for many grocery chains; travel volume is high, although the Sunday after Thanksgiving has surpassed it as the year's busiest; and the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line racks up the second highest-number of calls (9,000 last year, versus 11,000 on Thanksgiving). Maybe we should call this economic bridesmaid Runner-up Wednesday. — DL

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Week 6

mon, november 30
IEEE Globecom 2009

Last year, Verizon became a green pioneer in the telecom world. It publicly pledged to purchase more energy-efficient telecom equipment and launched a pilot project to turn off idle computers and monitors. That may sound modest, but the savings in energy will be enough to power 88,000 homes for a year. Such initiatives will be a major topic of discussion at this annual symposium, especially since going green can help companies save a whole lot of that other kind of green. A recent study from Insight Research shows that if businesses embraced green telecom solutions, they would cut their power consumption costs by up to 30%. — SS

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mon, november 30
Fake It
Stay At Home Because You're Well Day

Ten percent of sick days each year are faked. This does not seem like the best day to do so. — ZW

A version of this article appeared in the November 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.