Can fungi fix our environmental issues?

The functionality of fungi, risks of well-meaning workplace comments, innovative incentives for customer service employees & more

You know that Jerry Seinfeld standup bit from the ‘90s where he wonders in disbelief how we ever discovered that horses could be used to make glue? “Who saw that potential? Are you working in a stationery store and a horse walks by … ‘Hey, wait a minute — I think he could be glue!’” The joke hits because human innovation really is such a mysterious engine.

That same sense of wonder can be applied to the discovery of the varied uses of mycelium, the vegetative body of fungi, being used to cure all manner of societal ills and create newfangled products. In the May issue, Senior Editor Jennifer Fergesen reports on the many uses of mycelium, which include textiles, shoes, paper and meat substitutes, to name a few.

As hilarious as it would be for someone to be seized by a random “aha!” moment while on a hike through a mushroom-dotted forest, the obvious and more impressive truth is that this growing industry requires the ingenuity of researchers, the passion of startups and the vision and boldness of enterprising companies. They’re all in on it, and they’re all here in this incredibly innovative region, where folks have the nerve to make a fungus into a dang hot dog.

Here’s the latest Capital Region Rundown:

A manager asks Evil HR Lady what she should say to an employee who’s socializing with another manager with a dubious dating history; an Elk Grove-based startup raises funds and wins awards for its digital platform that offers incentives for customer service employees; mycelium is solving environmental problems and being developed into food products; the president of a government affairs company shares her tips for making diversity your company’s greatest strength; we pedal off the beaten track to get the story behind Davis’ longest-running family-run bike shops; and The California Capital International Documentary Film Festival comes to Rancho Cordova with 60 films over three days.

Recommendations from our editors:

In this section we editors share what we’re reading, listening to, watching or even eating. Here’s what we’re consuming this week:

Vanessa: We had a friend from Portland stay with us last week, so naturally we took her to all our favorite bars and restaurants around town. After a week of indulgence (cheese at Franquette, martinis at The Roost, etc.), we were in need of some vegetables, so on her last day we went to Bambi Vegan Tacos. I interviewed the owners for the Taste story in this month’s issue and was impressed to learn they make absolutely everything in house rather than buy pre-made meat substitutes like some vegan eateries. I highly recommend the fajita salad!

Judy: Are you someone like me, who walks around in circles in the office or at home so you can close the rings on your iWatch or get the satisfying buzz on your wrist from getting your hourly steps in from your Fitbit? If so, then FiveThirtyEight’s analytics column is for you.

Jennifer: I’m a big fan of the BBC’s cinematic radio dramas, and last week BBC 4 rebroadcast the excellent 1998 production of Agatha Christie’s “Evil Under the Sun,” a Hercule Poirot mystery set in a remote Devon hotel. The setting is based on the real Burgh Island Hotel, an Art Deco gem that also served as the backdrop for Christie’s “And Then They Were None,” and I’d love to visit it someday!

Odds and ends

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And if you didn’t catch it above, the California Capital International Documentary Film Festival is coming to Rancho Cordova the weekend of June 10! The event will feature an exciting array of film selections with special guests, panels and Q&A’s, and will be the first documentary film festival in the Sacramento Region. Comstock’s is a sponsor. 

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