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Out of the rat race

Sally Howard, one of the organizers of this year's Alternatives in Living conference, is particularly excited about a track called "renewing citizenship and community."

"I think it is an incredibly important time for us to not retreat into our caves," she says. "With all of the adversity that came out of the last few years with the war in Iraq and the way the election was so split, it's easy to just retreat and say, 'I don't agree with all those other people, it's us versus them.' With this track we're looking at the fact that we need to talk to each other, that we need to find common ground and be informed."

Howard is one of the founding members of Seeking Common Ground, the community organization sponsoring the conference (now in its second year). SCG was started eight years ago as a place where people looking for "more conscious ways of living" could meet and collaborate. They started a community-supported-agriculture farm (now a cooperative garden). And then last year SCG decided a one-day conference was needed, "kind of like a clearinghouse of inspiring things that are going on," Howard says.

Howard says the conference --- which includes 24 workshops on several tracks, a vendor fair of environmentally friendly products, and an organic lunch --- offers more than just causes, it's full of practical information. It covers everything from physical and mental health (yoga, massage, reiki), to lifestyle (green decorating, where to buy organic food), to community (radical recycling, buying free trade).

"It's a gift to yourself to take the time," she says.

The Alternatives in Living Conference is Saturday, April 9, at the School Without Walls, 480 Broadway Street, 8:15 a.m. to 5 p.m. $60, work-study scholarships are available. To register, visit or call 899-6803.

--- Erica Curtis

'A beautiful thing'

The 2005 Rochester International Jazz Festival is becoming one of the area's worst-kept secrets.

Some of the RIJF's bookings --- our favorite Argentinian songstress Juana Molina, guitarist John Scofield, vocalist Madeleine Peyroux --- have been popping up on the internet for weeks now. But the RIJF really let the jazz cat out of the bag when it mistakenly posted its entire 2005 lineup on its website ( last week.

Festival Producer John Nugent still plans to officially announce his line-up at a press conference Thursday, April 7. In the meantime, we'll share what we know.

The festival (June 10-18) is already returning to its relatively short roots, with reprise performances by past headliners like Sonny Rollins and Dave Brubeck. Also on board: keyboard legend and Miles Davis alumnus Chick Corea, soul veteran Chaka Khan, r&b vocalist Will Downing, smooth-jazz trumpet heartthrob Chris Botti, pianist Chiara Civello, the always entertaining and avant-garde Willem Breuker Kollektief, Cuban pianist-composer Manuel Valera, jazz-cabaret singer Paula West, adventurous guitarist Bill Frisell, the somewhat oddly placed jam outfit The Derek Trucks Band, and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane.

There's a ton more, of course. But we'd like Nugent to have a little fun on Thursday. We will say this: It seems fans of adventurous music will have plenty to look forward to, even beyond Molina, Breuker, and Coltrane. Bop Shop owner Tom Kohn, who has staged some of the most thrilling and outward jazz performances ever to hit Rochester, provided Nugent with a list of 20 or 30 acts to consider, and Nugent hired quite a few of them.

"Last year's festival was great, I think this year's going to be astounding," Kohn says. "It's such a beautiful thing for the community."

--- Chad Oliveiri

The farm team

Calling all farmers!

Here's your chance to make your views heard in a forum where they'll have some weight. In the wake of his appointment to the US House of Representatives Agriculture Committee, Randy Kuhl is seeking volunteers to fill an advisory agriculture committee of his own.

"Agriculture is critical to our economy so it's very important to hear the needs of our district directly from the people who know the issues best --- our farmers, distributors, academics, associations, and others in the 29th district who are involved in all aspects of agriculture," Kuhl said in a press release.

The committee --- headed by John Hicks, an Ontario County agri-businessman --- will meet with Kuhl at least once a year. During the rest of the year committee members will be the congressman's point people for information on agricultural issues and developments in the district. They'll also receive updates from Kuhl's office on related developments in Washington.

Sound interesting? Contact the congressman's Corning District Office at 607-937-3333 (phone) or 607-937-6047 (fax).

--- Krestia DeGeorge

Why us?

The sun seems to be shining on the rest of New York State --- but still not here. Last week, Governor Pataki's office released the latest labor statistics, noting widespread growth in private-sector employment. Statewide, the growth from February 2004 to February 2005 was 1.2 percent. Several areas topped that, including Glens Falls, with 4.4 percent, and Ithaca, with 2.6 percent. Even Syracuse experienced growth: 1.1 percent.

But private-sector employment in the Rochester area declined by 1.4 percent. The reason, says Kent Gardner of the Center for Governmental Research, are layoffs at Kodak. And that'll continue for a while, says Gardner. "We're in for a couple of years of fairly steep workforce reductions at Kodak," he says. But he's optimistic that when those layoffs stop, Rochester will begin to see private-sector job growth.

--- Mary Anna Towler

Life, on the house

As tax season winds to a close, the low-income families visiting sites run by the United Way's Creating Assets, Savings and Hope (C.A.S.H.) program will have another reason to visit: free life insurance.

C.A.S.H. has teamed up with insurance company MassMutual to provide a forum for the group's LifeBridge program. LifeBridge offers a free $50,000 term life insurance policy to qualifying parents who make less than $40,000 a year. In the event of their death the money is earmarked for their children's education, from pre-school to graduate school.

"All of our children are the future of our country, and not just those who have the financial means to get an education," reads a MassMutual memo describing the program.

Public application meetings for the LifeBridge program will be held Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the downtown C.A.S.H. Site, Sibley Building, Franklin Street Entrance; and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., at Irondequoit C.A.S.H. Site, Ridge Goodman Plaza, 1381 Ridge Road East. Appointments are required. 242-6485.

--- Krestia DeGeorge