Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Breaking Through, or Tipping Point or Whatever. . .

For quite some time, I've been thinking about my hometown, and about why San Diego has such a good beer scene compared to other cities in Southern California. I don't know the numbers for certain, but I would hardly be shocked to find out that San Diego County has more breweries than the rest of Southern California combined. Certainly, there are chains like Gordon Biersch that up the number of breweries everywhere, but San Diego has a surprising number of stand-alone breweries. Similarly, I have also been somewhat surprised by the number of farm-to-table restaurants that have popped up in San Diego over the past few years.

Both developments are not just beneficial to me, but also fascinating. As economic actors, restaurants and other food providers have to follow trends, but they also have opportunity costs and entry costs like any other business. As they are smaller businesses, they are more responsive to trends, but they are also responsive to market realities. For instance, as much as the San Diego market cries out for a New England-style seafood shack, there will never be one because San Diego does not have the same kind of seafood as New England. So, no fried clams for us.

That still doesn't describe why San Diego is such a big craft brewing town, or why so many restaurants are going farm-to-table. And here, I think there is another, less discussed factor - in both areas, there was a business that broke through to profitability and then created a bunch of imitators.

When I think about San Diego brewing, Stone Brewery really comes to mind as the first truly successful, stand-alone (not a brewpub) brewery. When Stone Brewing came into being, there were a number of breweries in San Diego, such as Karl Strauss, and Ballast Point, but Stone Brewing broke through first with Arrogant Bastard Ale. Beer snobs from San Diego to New York heard about Arrogant Bastard before learning about any other San Diego beer. More importantly, Stone Brewing made money, which in turn either convinced others to jump into the brewing arena, or convinced preexisting breweries to keep brewing. And as the marketplace deepened, and became more competitive, craft breweries in San Diego stopped trying to emulate Stone Brewing, but developed niches of their own. Hence, I can drink fabulous, locally produced beer.

With farm-to-table, the Linkery was the pioneer. Reading the owner's blog all these years, creating a restaurant that focused on local cuisine was a real challenge, because San Diego's food infrastructure was designed around the big restaurant supply chains like Sysco. In fact, at one point in time, the Linkery had to completely revamp its napkins because the restaurant supply company it worked with refused to launder its napkins without the Linkery buying some of its food. Moreover, the Linkery had to go out and find local producers of its meat, cheese and produce. All of which was exceptionally difficult. As it created the infrastructure, the Linkery enabled other restaurants to follow suit in the farm-to-table arena. Even if they didn't go all the way, restaurants could supplement their offerings by using the farm infrastructure the Linkery created.

Monday, January 10, 2011

We Told You So. . .

First off, this post will offend a lot of my right-wing friends, and while I hate to be dick, I am angry, and this post is meant to share my anger with the world in a constructive way. Hopefully, you will understand why I'm angry, rather than get offended. But, with that said, we (the Left) told you (the Right) that your rhetoric was going to get someone killed. And it may have.

On Saturday, when I heard that Representative Giffords was shot, I immediately had a picture of a suspect in mind - white, conservative, and in his mid-20's to mid 40's. And guess what - so did everyone else. When asked, Giffords' father pointed the finger directly at the Tea Party, as did the Sheriff, and every other Democrat and/or liberal in this country. There's a good reason for that - Sarah Palin put a crosshairs on Giffords, her office was vandalized during the health care debate, protesters showed up to her events fully armed, and her Republican opponent held fundraisers where his supporters could shoot an M16 at target with her name on it.

Now, it may be the case that the gunman was not a conservative or a Tea Partier, but rather a lone nutjob with his own agenda. But here's the thing - does he fixate on Giffords without so much heat put on her by the right? Does he even know who she is? We don't know that much. But if it is true that he had no connection with the right wing, don't celebrate, or blame liberals, but rather, breathe a sigh of relief because you got lucky. Really lucky. By the way, in the two days that have passed since the shooting, Senator Bennett and Representative Danny Davis have both received death threats

And if you want to respond to this post by saying that Democrats or liberals are doing this too, please cite specific examples - not from commenters on an open website, but examples from liberals similar in stature to Glenn Beck, Sharron Angle, Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, hell, I'll even go with someone equal to Michelle Malkin's stature. And that's the difference - there are nuts on both sides, but the conservative leadership is actively courting the crazies. And we warned you that this could have serious consequences. Hell, the night before she was shot, Congresswoman Giffords wrote to friends and colleagues to tone down the rhetoric.

And so, I say, we told you so. But guess what, whatever indignation and anger you might feel is nothing compared to the anger we liberals feel over the shooting. Everyone is losing. Oh, and don't you dare complain about the politicization of this tragedy - the attempted assassination of a political leader is a political.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Beer and Monogamy

Ah, the glories of the internet. Without it, I would never have found this article linking alcohol consumption with monogamy. After reading the journal article, there is certainly a question as to whether or not alcohol consumption and monogamy have a specious relationship, like storks and babies (there is a positive correlation between stork populations and birth rates in Sweden caused by the fact that storks live in rural areas where the residents have more kids), or a positive correlation. Unfortunately, the authors never really describe why there is a positive correlation between alcohol consumption and monogamy that exists to this day.

So, why is it that alcohol consumption = (at least in theory) monogamy? If I had to speculation, I would say that the reason is beer goggles. That is, the tendency of drunk people to engage in riskier sex than they normally would (and alcohol, we love you for it). This tendency leads to some problems, especially in the area of determining the parentage of the child. Plus, there are some drunken hook-ups that should never be discussed (beer - helping ugly people breed since 1800 b.c.) What's interesting about monogamy is that its a statement that all children born to the wife are assumed to be the children of the husband. All other relationships with other women, under the Roman/Greek version of monogamy, as stated in the article, are strictly informal, and the children produced were considered illegitimate. Problems with beer goggles solved.

As women gained more equality, there was a push to do away with informal polygyny (because, apparently, women don't like it when their men have sex with other women), and we are left with what we have today.

In the more, ahem, sober world, there was no need to worry about spontaneous hook-ups because, well, everyone was sober. So, rather than informalize relationships - to the point of ignoring their existence - these societies formalize them into marriages. The problem is that polygyny is inherently biased towards younger, poorer males - the exact kind of people who tend to do fun things like lead revolts and commit crimes - because they can't compete with older, richer men for mates.

Anyway, for whatever the reason, HOORAY BEER!!!