A Sense of Place

A Sense of Place

TEDx Shelburne Falls, October 12, 2013

The second annual TEDx Shelburne Falls is coming up on October 12, 2013. Great lineup of speakers this year, including Sienna Wildfield of Hilltown Families and Buckland Selectboard Chair Cheryl L. Dukes. I’ll be hosting the event at Memorial Hall in Shelburne Falls.

I’ve just come back from a rehearsal for some of the speakers. I’m really looking forward to hearing every one of the talks, and meeting and hearing from all the folks Stacy Kontrabecki has lined up for this year. The theme for 2013 is “A Sense of Place.” Visit the website to get your tickets now. Free admission to the live simulcast is available as an alternative as well.

A number of Adventures have been put together to get people out of the theater and into the outdoors. There are events both pre-conference on Saturday and on Sunday. 

TEDx Shelburne Falls


There’s a lot going on this week in Western Massachusetts for entrepreneurs and other business people. Visit the InCommN Business Calendar for listings of events around the area September 16–20.


I’ve just finished one of the best books I’ve read in a long time: Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty. It’s a semi-fictional account of an era in the history of the Soviet Union between the death of Stalin and the aftermath of the fall of Khruschev, when for a brief period it looked like the promise of Communism was going to be fulfilled. Serious attempts were made to turn the system from the murderous fraud it had become under Stalin into an economic powerhouse that would overtake the capitalist economies and provide a truly utopian life to the long-suffering people of the Soviet Union. Red Plenty mixes historical characters with invented ones to tell the story. The cast of characters includes Khruschev himself, economists, cyberneticians, geneticists, party functionaries, and bureaucrats. The result is engrossing, funny at times, and terribly sad in the end, as hope fades and the Soviet Union slips into the repressive decadence of the Brezhnev era.

I’m in the middle of Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations. I’m a sucker for a well-written history of civilization and technics, and Dirt certainly fits the bill. The early chapters tell the global story, region by region, of the rise of agriculture, and of the (so far) inevitable destruction of the soil by civilization after civilization, from the ancient Near East to Mayan Mexico. A particularly interesting example is that of Egypt, which was exempt from the common fate of civilizations because of the unique annual rhythm of the Nile, which preserved the soil for thousands of years, until the introduction of European irrigation and tillage techniques in the 19th century. The building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s was the nail in the coffin of the long-lasting water-soil balance in Egypt: they import food now.

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