Now February

A calendar of events this month.


Pump It Up

OPEC Extraordinary Meeting


Extraordinary times (and gas prices) call for extraordinary meetings. Citing the need for “extreme vigilance in assessing the market,” ministers from the oil cartel’s 13 nations–responsible for 40% of global output–will hold a special summit at OPEC HQ in Vienna. (Has anyone else ever wondered why OPEC is based in oil giant Austria?) Our money is on the petro power brokers voting to hold production steady before adjourning for lavish amounts of schnitzel. –Jeff Chu



Super Bowl XLII
Glendale, Arizona

Most years, Super Bowl Sunday is less about the football than the ads (list price this year is up to $2.7 million for a 30-second spot) and guacamole (though the oft-repeated factoid–that more than two-thirds of U.S. annual avocado consumption is pegged to the big game–is myth). While we don’t expect major innovations in guac, watch for ads from first-time Super Bowl advertiser and from Doritos, which will air the debut of an unsigned singer who wins an online fan vote. –JC

3 – 6


The National Biodiesel Conference and Expo
Orlando, Florida

The whole biofuel thing may be au courant, but we’re still not sure how a conference with sessions such as “Feedstock Procurement and Risk Management” and “Biodiesel Plant Feasibility” lures the likes of Larry Hagman and Daryl Hannah. If you’re still not filled up with all things biodiesel by the end of this four-day meeting, the National Ethanol Conference–also in Orlando–starts on February 25. –William Lee Adams


Breathe Easier

Debut of the Low-Emission Zone



Britain’s capital tries to clear the air a bit as the government begins charging old, diesel-fueled vehicles to drive into the city center. Trucks, buses, and vans that weigh more than 12 tons and don’t meet current European standards for new vehicles will have to pay up–or, policy makers hope, stay out. –JC



Rock On
By Dan Kennedy

It’s everyone’s childhood dream, no matter the level of musical talent, to be part of the rock-and-roll world. In his memoir Rock On, humor writer Dan Kennedy chronicles how his fantasy is fulfilled, albeit cruelly, as an office drone at a record label. His workplace boasts all the dysfunction of The Office, except it’s the real deal. Sycophantic underlings jockey for position, psychotic bigwigs condescend, Kennedy’s soul slowly withers–and we laugh, as he describes it all with satirical playfulness. Along the way, there are cameos by Jewel (“Who’s that attractive blonde woman walking toward me? … Connie, maybe? From accounts payable?”), Jimmy Page, and Stevie Wonder. –Abe Lebovic

6 – 8



One word on LIFT’s program snapped us out of the winter doldrums: “cyborg.” Among the speakers at this ideafest, centered on emerging technologies’ effects, is British cyborg-researcher Kevin Warwick, who had a microchip implanted in his body so he could study his nervous system via PC linkup. (His goal is to aid the disabled.) Also on the agenda: Anthropologists for Nokia and Intel discuss how their studies of tech users affect product design. –JC




Chinese New Year

The Chinese do know how to usher in a new year: A 15-day festival marks the start of the Year of the Rat, traditionally a time of wealth and business opportunity. The horoscope foresees a flourishing global economy, which will be sweet music to the ears of Ben Bernanke, and says it’s a fine time to start a business. The New Year is also boom-time in Vegas–in ’07, a rush of Chinese gamblers turned the festive period into the year’s most lucrative fortnight for Venetian owner Las Vegas Sands. –WLA



ICANN’s 31st International Public Meeting
New Delhi

Point, click, ka-ching. Every time a Web-site address is registered with the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, ICANN gets 20 cents, giving this nonprofit an annual budget of nearly $47 million. ICANN coordinates the Net’s naming system and oversees domain-name registries. That may seem bureaucratic, but this shop has real power; at a meeting last year, ICANN members nixed a proposal to create a “.xxx” domain–perfect for sites aspiring to be in a virtual red-light district. This year, a hot topic will be a proposal to internationalize domain names by translating terms such as “.com” into non-Latin scripts, so that the user of, say, a Chinese keyboard can type the now-nonexistent Chinese equivalent of .com as easily as a QWERTY user can type the original. –Jocelyn Hanamirian



Mobile World Congress

The mobile-telecom industry makes its annual mass migration to the Catalan city for three days of face-to-face networking. Even as attendees’ heads pound with the inevitable sangria hangovers, they’ll discuss how to get mobile ads working and the cell phone’s role in disaster-relief efforts. And, in Apple’s continuing quest to monopolize the mobile-sector spotlight, rumor has it that Steve Jobs may make a flying visit. –Theunis Bates




The Last Flight of the Scarlet Macaw
by Bruce Barcott

When a proposed hydroelectric dam threatened to destroy Belize’s entire population of scarlet macaws by flooding the rare birds’ jungle home, one American expat fought back. Sharon Matola, aka the Zoo Lady, took on Belizean fatcats, multinational corporations (Fortis, Duke Energy), and even the Queen of England to try to preserve the wilderness and save the birds. In telling Matola’s story, Barcott–author of The Measure of a Mountain, the award-winning book about Mount Rainier–spins a fast-paced, wide-ranging tale that reads like a thriller with plenty of unexpected twists yet delivers a powerful message about the monuments we build and what they say about us. –Beth Adams



Valentine’s Day

$16.9 billion. That’s what Americans spent on Valentine’s Day last year. (We might still have some leftover conversation hearts under our sofa cushions.) A good chunk went for cards–about 200 million are sent each Valentine’s Day, second only to Christmas. Hallmark says its most popular card last year was a musical valentine that played “Wild Thing.” This year, in an odd attempt to synergize various 2008 events, it’s selling cards featuring Hillary Clinton, George W. Bush, and Condoleezza Rice. If those don’t exactly give you that loving feeling, then try Be My Anti-Valentine ( The site was set up by self-described geek and social-media specialist Meg Pickard, who has created biting, refreshingly free e-cards like the one below. –JH



Broad Contemporary Art Museum
Los Angeles

After four years and $191 million–$60 million donated by real-estate titan Eli Broad and wife, Edythe–the new contemporary-art wing of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art opens. The Renzo Piano-designed galleries will be filled in part by selections from the Broads’ vast collection, which include key works by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns (such as his 1967 Flag, above). The Broads have agreed to an unusual open-ended arrangement with LACMA in which they’ll loan pieces for display but won’t donate them, because they want the art to be seen, not to sit in storage as 90% of museum art collections do. –JC



Rev Up

The 50th Running of the Daytona 500
Daytona Beach, Florida

In the first Daytona 500, in 1959, winner Lee Petty drove an Oldsmobile in an untelevised race for a purse worth $67,760. Today, Olds no longer exists, 30 million people are expected to tune in, and the $18 million-plus pot reflects NASCAR’s expansion into a multibillion-dollar business. But as NASCAR fans reflect on the sport’s trajectory, the 50th running may evoke nostalgia for another reason: The race kicks off the first full season for the new Car of Tomorrow. It’s meant to be safer and cut costs, but driver satisfaction apparently wasn’t among the goals. Last year, after Kyle Busch won the first Car of Tomorrow race, he spoke for many of his fellow drivers when he gave this eloquent assessment of the new cars: “They suck.” –JC

18 – 22


Game Developers Conference
San Francisco

Sixteen thousand programmers, designers, and engineers lining up for five days of talks on “Sparse Virtual Texture Memory” and “Physics for Game Programmers”–it just screams “geekfest.” But the people who make the games you play occasionally like to play too–and we don’t mean Guitar Hero. Toward that end, attendees at the year’s biggest game-makers gathering can kiss up to industry bigs at the Career Bar, mingle at parties at the W Hotel, or, if they must, get their gaming fix at the PlayStation Interactive Lounge, with its PS3 demo stations and free Internet access. –WLA



Fashion Week

What with Paris and New York, Milan and London, spring, summer, fall, and winter, it seems there’s always a fashion week going on somewhere. This month, designers unveil their fall/winter ’08 collections. Expect gowns that experiment with lightness in form and fabric, and garments that utilize floral prints but not in a Laura Ashley way. While catwalk clairvoyants expect strong New York shows from Michael Kors and Philip Lim, they predict that this season will belong to Paris. Judy Licht, cohost of Ultra HD’s Full Frontal Fashion, has her eye on Alber Elbaz, the Israeli designer who’s behind the celebrated reinvigoration of the storied house of Lanvin. “It’s visceral. Whether you’re a skinny model or a fashion editor, you will want to wear his clothes,” she says. And if you happen to be neither, ergo not a size 0, then you just can’t. –WLA



Open the Windows

Debut of Microsoft Windows Server ’08, SQL Server ’08, and Visual Studio ’08

It’s Microsoft’s biggest enterprise-product (read: nonconsumer) launch ever, and it matters more than you might think, even if you’re not a Bill Gates groupie or a MSFT shareholder. Server ’08 and its companions are the behind-the-scenes software that keep computer networks, from your work email to your cell-phone service, running. One key feature of Server ’08 is that it automatically does a “health check” of every piece of technology–from laptops to cells–that a company brings into its network. It’s not just Microsoft that’s counting on its new products to be a success. Its global partners, including Dell, Intel, and HP, are hoping that these offerings will help fend off competitors including Linux, Oracle, and Adobe. Analysts at IDC project that every dollar Microsoft earns in the United States on the Windows Vista OS and Server ’08 will represent about $18 in the greater technology ecosystem–a total of $120 billion in 2008 alone. –JH

Think Big

Monterey, California

There must be a reason that big-thinking folks like Richard Branson, Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, and Peter Gabriel annually trek out west for the three-day TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. If the TED Web site is to be believed, perhaps it’s because of its reputation as a powwow where you can get answers to some of life’s hugest questions–or at least be among people who ask them. The list on the site begins with a few that we think ought to be easily answerable in 72 hours: Who are We? What is our place in the Universe? What is Love? What will the Future be like? We have one to add to the list: What ever happened to Proper Rules of Capitalization? –JC