Now March 2010

Conferences and events you don’t want to miss this month.

Now March 2010
Illustration in wood by Todd St. John/Huntergatherer Illustration in wood by Todd St. John/Huntergatherer


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Week 1

mon, march 01

National Pig Day

In 1972, sisters Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave started National Pig Day to celebrate our porcine friends and the $44 billion industry built on their backs (and shoulders and bellies). How to mark the occasion is still up for debate four decades later, but perhaps you could follow the example of Iowa real-estate agent Brooks Reynolds. In 2008, he started the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines. “It’s an outlet,” Reynolds says, “to spread our love of bacon to the masses.” Wait, who — especially in Iowa — didn’t already love bacon? — ERICA WESTLY

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tue, march 02

The Ask

“New technology, new markets, global interconnectivity, doesn’t matter,” veteran fixer Leo Moss says to neophyte Milo Burke in this darkly comic novel by Sam Lipsyte. “It’s still the rulers and the ruled.” Lipsyte considers “late capitalism” through Burke — a college development officer — and his relationship with new-media titan Purdy Stuart, who makes the book sing. “Do you realize that one day we’ll be heating our houses with trout?” Stuart tells Burke. “Is that one of the ideas at the ideas festival?” Burke asks. “It’s just fantastic here,” Stuart replies. Fantastic, indeed. — DAVID LIDSKY

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sat, march 06

MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference

The geeks shall inherit the sports. Statistical analysis has reshaped how teams in every sport evaluate talent and call plays. But as once-vanguard stats such as baseball’s on-base percentage go mainstream (thanks, Moneyball), the box scores of the future will be debated — and analyzed — at this Cambridge, Massachusetts, meeting. So what goes in it? One top contender is the UZR (ultimate zone rating), a defensive metric developed by Mitchel Lichtman to gauge how well a fielder saves runs at his position; third baseman Adrian Beltre, signed to a one-year, $9 million contract with the Red Sox, has the second-highest UZR since 2002. No word on Lichtman’s USGR (ultimate sports-geek rating), but we’re guessing it’s very, very high. — DL

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sun, march 07

The 82nd Academy Awards

The Oscars may seem as if they’re all about who gets to hoist those 8.5-pound statuettes, but the designers whose gowns are worn to the ceremony are the night’s other big winners, raking in millions in PR and buzz. (We’re still talking about that vintage Valentino Julia Roberts wore in 2001, when she won for that dress and maybe for Erin Brockovich.) Red-carpet faves like Oscar de la Renta and Elie Saab no doubt will appear, but the happiest designer this year will be an unknown. In the Academy’s Oscars Designer Challenge, 10 up-and-comers will send gowns down the catwalk in a pre-awards show, and the winning design — picked by online voters — will be worn by a statuette presenter on awards night. We’d say that’s definitely worth more than Oscar’s weight in gold. — STEPHANIE SCHOMER

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Week 2

tue, march 09

Game Developers Conference

Casual gaming has ruled the past year, so much so that the GDC in San Francisco has added a Social and Online Games Summit to talk all things Facebook and iPhone. Part of the growth comes from the startling number of young gamers: 82% of 2- to 17-year-olds in America — that’s 56 million people — say they play. “It’s important to have an immersive experience where kids are learning but don’t know it,” says John Popadiuk, director of the educational-gaming project Nanoschool Kids. “This has to be a 21st-century mantra of sorts, as all kids basically are growing up in a ‘more pure’ digital age.” In other words, GDC attendees, do it for the children. — ZACHARY WILSON

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tue, march 09

The Yugo: The Rise and Fall of the Worst Car in History

The best thing about Jason Vuic’s book about the Yugo is the priceless collection of Yugo jokes he has compiled for it. For instance: “Q: What do you call a Yugo with brakes? A: Customized.” Another: “Q: What do you call a Yugo that breaks down after 100 miles? A: An overachiever.” Vuic, who teaches history at Virginia’s Bridgewater College, writes what amounts to a business farce, detailing how the Balkan lemon first arrived in America 25 years ago this month and ended up in thousands of American garages and just as many punch lines. Sometimes the story sputters — his relentless focus on Malcolm Bricklin, the serial entrepreneurial failure who masterminded the Yugo’s import, just gets annoying. But you can say this about Vuic’s book, if not of its pathetic subject: For the most part, it works. — JEFF CHU

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wed march 10

10th Anniversary of the Nasdaq Peaking at 5,048.62

Week 3

wed, march 17

100th Birthday of the National Museum of Natural History

To mark its first century, this Smithsonian museum in Washington is celebrating us all with the new $20.7 million, 15,000-square-foot Hall of Human Origins. Highlights will include forensically reconstructed faces of early human ancestors and an interactive “family tree” dating back 6 million years. To its credit, the Smithsonian seems to recognize that most of us have evolved past visiting in person: A replica of the hall — with bonus features such as 3-D rotatable scans of fossils — will be available online. — DAN MACSAI

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fri, march 19

What’s Next Boomer Business Summit


There’s opportunity in the $800-billion-and-maturing-with-the-boomers caregiving niche, and “this conference is at the vortex,” says Mary Furlong, organizer of the Chicago conference. She wanted to bring together investors and innovators — from biggies such as Intel, with its Health Guide remote-health monitor, to upstarts like Wellcore, which will unveil its rival monitoring system at the summit — who are prospecting on the frontier of boomer-targeted tech. How big could this business get? “This is the Louisiana Purchase and people can only see as far as Louisiana,” she says. “They can’t even conceive of California yet.” — LILLIAN CUNNINGHAM

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sat, march 20

IEEE Virtual Reality Conference

Kent Quirk says the future of office meetings lies in Linden Lab’s Second Life. The aptly named Quirk, a speaker at this Waltham, Massachusetts, gathering, may be biased: He’s a developer at the lab. But it has been trying to make meeting via avatar more accessible — last fall, it released Second Life Enterprise, software that lets companies run private versions of the virtual world. Our favorite feature is the Frustration Orb. “If a meeting is becoming unproductive, people can anonymously click a glowing ball in the middle of the table,” Quirk explains. “If it turns red [reflecting lots of clicks], everybody knows to get back on track.” We’ll take three. — DM

Week 4

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sun, march 28

“Picasso: Themes and Variations” Opens at MoMA


Many artists have seen printmaking as a cheap concession to commerce, but not Picasso. To him, it was a chance to experiment. His prints are quite affordable today. “You can easily find one for about $2,000,” says Mary Bartow, director of the prints department at Sotheby’s. But they multiply in value when sold in sets — a focus of this New York exhibit of Picasso prints. The show features about 100, including the famous Bull series, which gives a step-by-step progression from realism to abstraction. The images would typically sell for $10,000 apiece at auction. Put together? As much as $300,000. — EW

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Week 5

mon, march 29

National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day

Small businesses account for 70% of U.S. commerce, but the going can be lonely for owners. Advice and sympathy are out there. SCORE, a not-for-profit partner of the Small Business Administration, offers free counseling, and its volunteers — mostly retired business owners — have advised more than 8 million clients, many of them clueless. “People want to open a restaurant, so you ask what they know about restaurants. They say, ‘I eat in them,’ ” says SCORE counselor Martin Lehman. “We guide them. You can’t run a restaurant if you don’t know how to wash the dishes.” — SS

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tue, march 30

Where 2.0


Waldo could never hide these days. “There’s all this openness now, thanks to location-aware apps and mobile devices,” says Brady Forrest, chairman of Where 2.0, which will host industry leaders in San Jose to discuss everything from 3-D mapping to augmented reality. “Users can announce their locations every time they tweet. There are apps that, if you’re at the Gap and there’s a sale at a store nearby, you can find out about it. You can always know what’s being said and going on in areas you’re near.” Here, we map some of the companies that make it their business to know where everything is. — SS

The Nokia-owned company is everywhere: Its data are used by mapquest, Yahoo maps, Microsoft’s Bing maps, Garmin’s GPS devices, and XM Radio’s traffic maps.

Amsterdam, the Netherlands
With its AR browser for smartphones, Layar adds layers of content to what you see through your camera viewer. But these newfangled maps are finicky: The iPhone version was pulled from the App Store because of instability.

Salzburg, Austria
The company gained fans with its Wikitude app, which augments reality with Wikipedia info. Mobilizy recently teamed up with travel-info company Lonely Planet to create AR travel guides.

Sutton Coldfield, England
As with Wikipedia, users can edit this free world map, created from the ground up by volunteers using GPS tracks. The not-for-profit OpenStreetMap Foundation supports the project, but insists that ownership lies with the contributors.