1.)Food+City has done its share of conferences and events, so why wouldn’t you do one for fun, real fun. Our family (Metcalfe’s) is crazy about running, food, maps, travel, and prime numbers, it seems. But it is always up for dry, sarcastic humor. Even dark, sometimes. This Christmas, my family held its sporadic Metcon conference. Sporadic because it last took place in 2015. We copy normal conference formats, including pre-registration, registration, an icebreaker, presentations, badges, and breakout sessions. A full house is all five of us. If you want a full debrief of the conference this year, email me at info@foodandcity.org.

2.)Am in the process of launching a podcast, something I’ve been curious about for years. In December I recorded three podcasts and am now working on packaging them for a soft launch to come. The first person I interviewed was Mark Walton. The podcast aims to explore what’s happens when technology affects everything we eat. Thanks to the enthusiasm and support from Laura Lorek who showed me the ropes.

3.)At Food+City, we publish a magazine as a way to introduce our readers to the art and science of feeding cities. After 4 issues, we discovered that our beautiful and carefully researched and written magazine wasn’t getting read. Well, it was, by our dozen or so friends and family. So we’re headed back to the garage to see how best to share our stories. Instagram? Youtube?

4.)Tuesday, my book editor and I headed out to visit Steven and Carey Kraemer, owner of Buena Tierra Farm. We are prototyping a new book project that would include photos and stories about the people who are invisible workers within our industrial food system. While the Kraemers are not of industrial size, they were gracious enough to allow us to test our interview style and photo/recording technology. As it turned out, an unexpected story did emerge from our visit, which you can read.

5.)Am always interested in anyone working on sensors for our personal biometrics. Check out UT’s Division of Textiles and Apparel’s event hosting Dr. Juan Hinestroza from Cornell University, called Fashionable Nanotechnology. Wouldn’t you hope he will show how fibers can be smart?

6.)My forthcoming book, Food Routes: Growing Bananas in Iceland and Other Tales from the Logistics of Eating, will be published by the MIT Press in March. It will be available at SXSW in Austin this year, on Amazon, and in a bunch of independent bookstores. After three years of writing, which included writing two versions of the book, I am almost ready to find a new project that enables me to learn something new. More on that in a later newsletter.

7.)This past weekend, I attended the Antigua Forum, an annual meeting of free-market thinkers who spend the weekend solving problems using a process similar to a hackathon, but better. The ten challenges included finding a way to generate new sources of energy in Lebanon, developing a grass roots project in Senegal to enable entrepreneurs to begin to own and operate their own businesses, developing an integrated health care system that enables individuals to control their own health data. The Forum has some good ground rules, such adding value, not engaging in a critique of ideas, and engaging in the small group format. The process was similar included the design thinking process but included some pretty impressive methods for following the projects after the conference. Congrats to the facilitators; they were impressive.

8.)Books, movies and stuff I’m listening to:

a. I’m reading this month. Just completed The Clockwork Universe, by Edward Dolnick. While you might find the long sections on how to calculate the speed of a falling rock, the book gives you an overview of how we began to use the language of calculus and mathematics instead of relying on empiricism and observation. He begins with Aristotle, Euclid, and ends with Newton and Liebnitz. After seeing the Super Blood Moon last night and hearing the scientists explain the phenomena, it is clear that we’ve come a long way since Galileo looked at the moon.

b. Watched the Netflix movie, Bandersnatch, inspired by Black Mirror. After choosing all the alternative story lines, using a remote for our TV, we finally arrived at and ending that sort of made sense to us. Being in the story feels almost like losing the serendipity of discovering the story rather than shaping it. Almost too much control. If that’s possible….

c. During training runs and bike workouts, I’ve been enjoying Tim Ferris (Interview of Greg McKeown, the author of Essentialism. I read his book a couple of years ago and now he’s gotten even better describing how to say “no” to all those projects that distract you from what’s important. Freakonomics continues to inform, now about sports with its series “The Hidden Side of Sports.” Lots there to learn about mental discipline.

This week’s doodle:  “The Tower”  – Buena Tierra Farm