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Sunday, June 10, 2018

The North Bay's Best Breweries

In a recent post, I posted rankings of craft breweries in the South Bay ("The South Bay's Best Craft Breweries") Here, I offer my rankings of the craft breweries in the North Bay. As before, the rankings are based on Untappd scores, which is probably the most popular app for rating a brewery's different beers. It's not a perfect approach since successful breweries are more likely to experiment, which increases the probability that they'll brew a bad beer. Still, Untappd's ratings are the best available, so below are the rankings of the North Bay's craft breweries. That Russian River sits atop of the rankings is no surprise. They're regularly ranked as one of the top breweries in the U.S., and their Blind Pig, Pliny the Elder, and Pliny the Younger are among the best IPAs, DIPAs, and TIPAs in the country. Not too far behind is Lagunitas, which has a great outdoor venue for enjoying good beer and food. And it's tours of the breweries are usually quite entertaining:
  1. Russian River Brewing, Santa Rosa (4.19)
  2. Mad Fritz, St. Helena (3.96)
  3. Cooperage Brewing Company, Santa Rosa (3.89) 
  4. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma (3.86)
  5. HenHouse Brewing, Santa Rosa (3.85) 
  6. Bear Republic, Healdsburg (3.82)
  7. Shady Oak Barrel House, Santa Rosa (3.79) 
  8. Barrel Brothers, Windsor (3.77)
  9. Grav South Brew Co., Cotati (3.74 )
  10. Plow Brewing, Santa Rosa (3.73)
  11. Crooked Goat Brewing, Sebastopol (3.72) 
  12. Moonlight Brewing, Santa Rosa (3.71) 
  13. Baeltane, Novato (3.68)
  14. Fogbelt Brewing, Santa Rosa (3.68)
  15. Iron Springs, Fairfax (3.68) 
  16. Woodfour Brewery, Sebastopol (3.68) 
  17. Moylan’s Brewing, Novato (3.67)
  18. Sonoma Springs Brewing, Sonoma (3.66)
  19. 101 North Brewing, Petaluma (3.65)
  20. Mill Valley Beerworks, Mill Valley (3.64)
  21. Old Redwood Brewing, Windsor (3.64)
  22. Marin Brewing, Larkspur (3.63)
  23. Bloodline Brewing, Santa Rosa (3.62) (closed)
  24. St. Florians, Windsor (3.56)
  25. Petaluma Hills Brewing, Petaluma (3.55)
  26. Third Street Aleworks, Santa Rosa (3.49)
  27. Napa Smith Brewing, Vallejo (3.48)
  28. Warped Brewing Company, Sebastopol (3.47)
  29. 2 Tread Brewing, Santa Rosa (3.46)
  30. Dempsey’s, Petaluma (3.46)
  31. Napa Point Brewing, Napa (3.45)
  32. Calistoga Inn and Brewery, Calistoga (3.44)
  33. Carneros Brewing, Sonoma (3.41)
  34. Stumptown Brewery, Guerneville (3.38)
  35. Right Eye Brewing, Suisun City (3.30)
  36. Healdsburg Beer Company, Healdsburg (3.28)
  37. Broken Drum, San Rafael (3.25)
  38. Pizza Orgamisca, San Rafael (3.22)

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Moral, Believing, and Storytelling Animals

Sociologist Christian Smith is a believer in believing. He argues that all of us, religious and secular, are believers. We all adhere to some set of assumptions about the world in which we live. What's more, these assumptions can't be independently verified as "true."
What we have come to see is that, at bottom, we are all really believers. The lives that we live and the knowledge we possess are based crucially on sets of basic assumptions and beliefs, about which three characteristics deserve note. First, our elemental assumptions and beliefs themselves cannot be empirically verified or established with certainty. They are starting points, trusted premises, postulated axioms, presuppositions--"below" which there is no deeper or more final justification, proof, or verification establishing them... [Second], most of these starting-point assumptions and beliefs are not universal... They are thus neither intellectually self-evident to nor actually shared by the rest of the human race... [Third], there is no "deeper," more objective or independent body of facts or knowledge exists to adjudicate between alternative basic assumptions and beliefs. (Moral, Believing Animals, pp. 46, 48, 52)
Instead, we come to "know" what we believe to be true through our interactions with others, in particular, through the various social groups to which we belong. In fact, Smith argues that our primary drive in life is the search for meaning and belonging, and we satisfy this drive by joining various social groups (or subcultures). Most of us belong to one or more subcultures, and to a greater and lesser extent, they provide us with world views that help us make sense of our world and our place in it. I noted in an earlier post ("Networks and Religion: Changing Our Religion") that when people leave a faith tradition, seldom do we stop believing; instead, we typically trade in one set of beliefs for another. If Smith's account is correct, then it helps to explain why that is true.

Smith also argues that we tend not to think of our world views in terms of abstract concepts, but rather in light of an overarching narrative in which our own life story plays a small part. Smith argues that “for all our science, rationality and technology, we moderns are no less the makers, tellers, and believers of stories that make sense of our existence, history and purpose than were our forebears at any other time in human history” (Moral, Believing Animals, p. 64). As the sociologist Robert Bellah notes, it's easier for us to think narratively than conceptually:
That even the narratives of early childhood are organized through relationships that are in some sense logical warns us against assuming that narrative, or symbolic representation generally, is “irrational.” Art, music, poetry, and narrative are not just effusions of feeling. They are all forms of thought and are in principle as deeply rational as mathematics or physics. It is easier for adults as well as children (even for theoretical physicists) to think narratively than it is to think conceptually, so it is not surprising that logical relationships are often expressed in narrative form. (Religion in Human Evolution, pp. 36-37)
Of course, Smith and Bellah are not alone. Narrative plays a central role in the thought of scholars as diverse as philosophers Alasdair MacIntyre and Paul Ricœur, psychologists Dan McAdams and Donald Polkinghorne, theologians H. Richard Niebuhr and Stanley Hauerwas, and social network analysts Harrison White and Paul McLean. Smith is somewhat unique in that he actually crafts examples of "living" narratives that help define (or perhaps construct) various world views. Consider, for example, the following:

The Capitalist Prosperity Narrative (p. 70)
For most of human history, the world’s material production was mired in oppressive and inefficient economic systems such as primitive communalism, slavery, feudalism, mercantilism, and more recently, socialism and communism. In eighteenth-century Europe and America, however, enterprising men hit upon the keys to real prosperity: private property rights, limited government, the profit motive, capital investment, the free market, rational contracts, technological innovation – in short, economic freedom. The capitalist revolution has produced more wealth, social mobility, and well-being than any other system could possibly imagine or deliver. Nevertheless, capitalism is continually beset by utopian egalitarians, government regulators, and anti-entrepreneurial freeloaders who foolishly seek to fetter its dynamic power with heavy-handed state controls. All who care for a world of freedom and prosperity will remain vigilant in defense of property rights, limited government, and the free market.
The Progressive Socialist Narrative (p. 70)
In the most primitive days, before the rise of private property, humans lived in communities of material sharing and equality. But for most of subsequent human history, with the rise of private property, the world’s material production has been mired in oppressive and exploitative economic systems, such as slavery, feudalism, mercantilism, and capitalism. The more history has progressed, the more ownership of the means of production have become centralized, and the more humanity has suffered deprivation and injustice. As the calamitous contradictions of capitalism began to intensify in the nineteenth century, however, a revolutionary vanguard emerged who envisioned a society of fraternity, justice, and equality. They proclaimed the abolition of private property, the socialization of production, and the distribution of goods not according to buying power but according to need. Right-wing tycoons and magnates who have everything to lose to the cause of justice fight against the socialist movement with all their power and wealth. But the power of workers in solidarity for justice will eventually achieve the utopia of prosperity and equality. Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lost but your chains!
The American Experiment Narrative (p. 67)
Once upon a time, our ancestors lived in an Old World where they were persecuted for religious beliefs and oppressed by established aristocracies. Land was scarce, freedoms denied, and futures bleak. But then brave and visionary men like Columbus opened up a New World, and our freedom-loving forefathers crossed the ocean to carve out of a wilderness a new civilization. Through bravery, ingenuity, determination, and goodwill, our forebears forged a way of life where men govern themselves, believers worship in freedom, and where anyone can grow rich and become president. This America is genuinely new, a clean break from the past, a historic experiment in freedom and democracy standing as a city on a hill shining a beacon of hope to guide a dark world into a future of prosperity and liberty. It deserves our honor, our devotion, and possibly the commitment of our very lives for its defense.
The Scientific Enlightenment Narrative (p. 71)
For most of human history, people have lived in the darkness of ignorance and tradition, driven by fear, believing in superstitions. Priests and lords preyed on such ignorance, and life was wearisome and short. Ever so gradually, however, and often at great cost, inventive men have endeavored better to understand the natural world around them. Centuries of such inquiry eventually led to a marvelous Scientific Revolution that radically transformed our methods of understanding nature. What we know now as a result is based on objective observations, empirical fact, and rational analysis. With each passing decade, science reveals increasingly more about the earth, our bodies, our minds. We have come to possess the power to transform nature and ourselves. We can fortify health, relieve suffering, and prolong life. Science is close to understanding the secret of life and maybe eternal life itself. Of course, forces of ignorance, fear, irrationality, and blind faith still threaten the progress of science. But they must be resisted at all costs. For unfettered science is our only hope for true enlightenment and happiness.
These aren't all of the narratives Smith constructs, but they are ones that most readers will recognize. Either we ascribe to one or more of these narratives ourselves, and/or we we know people who do. The last one should is striking in that many of those who ascribe to the scientific narrative are among those who deny the existence of such "grand" narratives. According to Smith, much of the debates that we witness today (e.g., over gay and lesbian rights, stem-cell research, policy toward Israel and the Middle East, etc.) are rooted in rival and not entirely compatible narratives.

The question, of course, becomes how do we resolve debates if the positions we take are embedded in world views that are incompatible with those of others? Unfortunately, there isn't a simple answer to this question. However, the fact there are competing and somewhat incompatible narratives suggests that a necessary first step is gaining an understanding of world views we don't embrace. Doing so, won't resolve any debates, and it will require a bit of empathy on everyone's part, but doing so may set the stage for meaningful and fruitful discussions that open up avenues for reconciliation.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

The South Bay's Best Craft Breweries

Previously, I've compiled rankings of the best craft breweries in the U.S. ("Best Craft Breweries in the U.S., 2017"), but let's face it, it's basically impossible for the average craft beer aficionado to visit most of these. Thus, with this post I'm beginning to pull together rankings of Bay Area craft breweries. The rankings are based on Untappd scores, which are probably the most popular app for rating a brewery's different beers. It's not a perfect system since successful breweries are more likely to experiment, which increases the probability that they'll brew a bad beer. Still, Untappd's ratings are probably the best available, so here are the rankings for the top craft breweries in the South Bay (with the Untappd scores in parentheses). I'll be back with rankings from other Bay Area regions (e.g., San Francisco, East Bay, etc.):
  1. Floodcraft Brewing Company, San Jose (3.84) (Whole Foods Brewer on the Alameda)
  2. Bellpenny Brewing, San Jose (3.77) (a Nano brewer -- you can find their beer at Uproar Brewing)
  3. Camino Brewing, San Jose (3.76)
  4. Hermitage Brewing, San Jose (3.69) (has ties to the Tied House)
  5. Santa Clara Valley Brewing, San Jose (3.68)
  6. Hapa’s Brewing, San Jose (3.64) (my favorite, hence the graphic above)
  7. Clandestine Brewing, San Jose (3.62)
  8. Loma Brewing (3.62) (replaces Los Gatos Brewing Co. and much better)
  9. Golden State Brewery, Santa Clara (3.60)
  10. Uproar Brewing (3.56) 
  11. Rock Bottom, Campbell (3.51)
  12. El Toro Brewing, Morgan Hill (3.48)
  13. Strike Brewing, San Jose (3.45)
  14. Gordon Biersch, San Jose (3.42) (apparently closing soon if it hasn't already)
  15. Firehouse Grill & Brewery, Sunnyvale (3.41)
  16. Faultline, Sunnyvale (3.40)
  17. Campbell Brewing, Campbell (3.36)
  18. Tied House, Mountain View (3.35) (has ties to Hermitage Brewing)
On a related note, a friend from church (Patrick Campbell) has just started an excellent blog on Bay Area craft breweries, appropriately called "Bay Area Beers." It's unique in that rather than just writing about breweries, Patrick films (he's a film maker) local brewers making beer and offers commentary along the way. It's worth checking out.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

If Andre Iguodala Hadn't Been Hurt, There Might Not Have Been a Game 7 for Chris Paul to Miss


The Houston Rockets' guard Eric Gordon remarked after their loss to the Warriors in the 7th game that the Rockets would've won if Chris Paul had played. And he's not the only one to raise that possibility. He (and they) are probably right, but it's also true that the Warriors probably would've won Game 4 if Andre Iguodala hadn't been out, as well as Game 5. In those two games, the Rockets only won by a combined score of 7 points. Put simply, if Iggy hadn't been injured, there's a really good chance there never would've been a Game 7 (or Game 6) for Chris Paul to miss. Sorry Rockets fans.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Can the Warriors Come Back?

Before the playoffs began, I've expressed my skepticism concerning the Warriors' chances of repeating as chanps this year ("Can the Warriors Repeat?"); however, in a text I sent out to friends before tonight's game against the Houston Rockets, I wrote:
I don't think it's crucial that the Warriors win tonight (although it'd be nice). What is crucial is winning Saturday's game at home. They just need to split one of two games in Houston to move on, and if they win game 6, I think there's a good chance they'll win game 7.
To win on Saturday, though, the Warriors need Andre Iguodala back. Iguodala doesn't always score a lot of points, but when he plays, the Warriors generally do. It's not a coincidence that the only two games the Warriors have scored less than 100 points are the two games that Iguodala has been out. If he's back on Saturday (and it sounds like he will be), I think the Warriors have a good chance of winning and then giving the Rockets a run for their money on Monday. We will see what we will see.

Note: The Warriors have played Houston three times in the regular season and five times in the playoffs. They're 3-1 when Iguodala has played, 0-4 when he hasn't.

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Greatest of These is Love (Charity)

In the 13th chapter of his first letter to the Christians at Corinth, the apostle Paul penned a passage that has become quite popular at weddings:
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. 
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never ends; as for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
What's interesting is that the Greek word (agapé) translated as "love" used to be translated as "charity," which is a clue that the form of love Paul writes about here is not feelings of affection for others. Rather, it's about acting charitably to others and that includes those we don't like. Charity, in this sense, isn't limited to giving to the poor and unfortunate (although that's certainly part of what this understanding of charity or love involves). Rather, it's about acting charitably to others in all that we do, regardless of how affectionate we fell for them or not. As C.S. Lewis once put it:
Charity means "Love in the Christian sense." But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people. (Mere Christianity, p. 115)
Of course, it's one thing to "love" those whom we like. It's quite another to love those whom we don't like. The former is easy; the latter isn't. It takes work. As Lewis puts it, it takes an act of the will. It can be done, however. Over the weekend, I attended a memorial service for someone who had been a member of our church for over 50 years. And the stories people told about her repeatedly emphasized the unconditional love (i.e., charity) with which she treated not just them but others. She had a knack for seeing the good in people, regardless of whether they were "lovable" or not.

So, yes, loving others (in the charitable sense) is doable. However, if we sit around waiting for feelings of affection to develop before we act, we're missing the point. Those of us who consider ourselves Christians are called to act charitably today, not tomorrow, not next week, not next year. And we're called to love everyone, including those whom we dislike or those who have treated us poorly or those who hold beliefs we find reprehensible. Of course, if we're arrogant or rude, insist on our own way, and rejoice in the missteps of our "enemies," learning how to love others won't be easy. But if we look for the good in others, regardless of whether they're likable or see the world in the same way we do, it shouldn't be quite so hard.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Networks and Religion: What is Social Network Analysis? (Probably Not What You Think)

Nicholas Christakis begins his widely-viewed 2010 TED talk, The Hidden Influence of Social Networks (which can be viewed at the bottom of this post), with a story from when, in the 1990s at the University of Chicago, he was studying the “widower effect.” And he tells how he was caring for a woman who was dying from dementia and being cared for by her daughter. “And the daughter was exhausted from caring for her mother. And the daughter’s husband, he also was sick from his wife’s exhaustion. And I was driving home one day, and I get a phone call from the husband's friend, calling me because he was depressed about what was happening to his friend. So here I get this call from this random guy that’s having an experience that’s being influenced by people at some social distance." This led him to experience an epiphany:
I suddenly realized two very simple things: First, the widowhood effect was not restricted to husbands and wives. And second, it was not restricted to pairs of people. And I started to see the world in a whole new way, like pairs of people connected to each other. And then I realized that these individuals would be connected into foursomes with other pairs of people nearby. And then, in fact, these people were embedded in other sorts of relationships: marriage and spousal and friendship and other sorts of ties. And that, in fact, these connections were vast and that we were all embedded in this broad set of connections with each other. So, I started to see the world in a completely new way and I became obsessed with this. I became obsessed with how it might be that we’re embedded in these social networks, and how they affect our lives.
Christakis is not the first to become obsessed with social networks. Since the early 20th century, social scientists have explored the dynamics of the networks in which individuals are embedded. For instance, Georg Simmel argued that in order to understand social behavior we must study patterns of interaction, and he offered novel insights into the nature of secret societies and how increasing social complexity contributed to the rise of modern individualism. And beginning in the 1960s Harrison White, who also earned a Ph.D. in theoretical physics, argued that in spite of its claim to study social phenomena, sociology was beholden to individualistic forms of analysis based on the aggregated characteristics of individuals. This, he believed, was a mistake, and, along with his students, he developed an approach that drew on case studies that focused on social ties and the patterns that emerged from them. These efforts didn't occur in a vacuum but were instead informed by other theoretical traditions, such as graph theory, exchange theory, and research into the recruitment of individuals to religious and social movements.

To say that the discipline has come into its own would be an understatement. Social network analysts have created their own organization, launched their own journals, and produced a number of excellent monographs. In recent years, economists have become increasingly interested in social networks, as have physicists and other scientists.

What is social network analysis (SNA)? Briefly put, it is a collection of theories and methods that assumes that the behavior of actors (whether individuals, groups, or organizations) is profoundly affected by their ties to others and the networks in which they are embedded. Rather than viewing actors as unaffected by those around them, it assumes that interaction patterns affect what actors do, say, and believe. Although some interactions are random, many are not. Actors tend to interact with similar others and repeated interaction can lead to the emergence of social formation at multiple levels. SNA differs from more traditional approaches in that while the latter tends focus on actors’ attributes (e.g., gender, race, education), SNA focuses on how interaction patterns affect behavior. It notes that while attributes typically do not vary across social contexts, most interaction patterns do, suggesting that interaction patterns are just as (or perhaps more) important for understanding behavior:
A woman who holds a menial job requiring little initiative in an office may be a dynamic leader of a neighborhood association and an assertive PTA participant. Such behavioral differences are difficult to reconcile with unchanging gender, age and status attributes, but comprehensible on recognizing that people’s structural relations can vary markedly across social contexts (Knoke and Yang 2007:5).
Consequently, a primary goal of SNA has been to develop metrics and algorithms that help us gain a better understanding of a particular network’s structural features. It has been used successfully to explain a variety of behavior from Fortune 500 corporations (Mizruchi 1996) and Christian denominations (Chaves 1996), to social movements (Hanssanpour 2016) and terrorist organizations (Cunningham et al. 2016).

Misconceptions

Sometimes SNA is confused with social media (it doesn't help that the movie about Facebook was called, "The Social Network"), but while we can use SNA to analyze Facebook, Twitter, and the like, it isn't the same. SNA is a collection of theories and methods that have been developed to understand the structure of social networks, whereas social media is user-generated content that can include text, pictures, videos, connections among users, and links to websites. Analysts can extract network data from social media platforms and use SNA to understand those social media networks, but that is different. The fact that social media content is often relational and can therefore lend itself to SNA, only adds to the confusion.

How some use the term “network” can also be confusing. Some use it to refer to decentralized, informal and/or organic types of organizations. And while this distinction can be useful in some contexts, within the world of SNA, all organizations are seen as networks. Some may be more hierarchical than others, but they are still networks, which is why social network analysts have developed algorithms that measure the degree to which a particular network is hierarchical.

Networks and Religion

That social networks play a central role in religious life is fairly well established. We know, for instance, that they are crucial for the recruitment and retention of members, the diffusion of religious ideas and practices, motivating individuals to volunteer and become politically active, the health and well-being of people of faith, and conflict, radicalization, and (sometimes) violence. However, most of the research in this area has been conducted by social scientists unfamiliar with social network methods and thus use proxies for networks that are marginal, at best. Thus, a primary purpose of my new book is to facilitate the study of networks and religion using formal SNA methods.

References

Chaves, Mark. 1996. "Ordaining Women: The Diffusion of an Organizational Innovation." American Journal of Sociology 101(4):840-73.

Cunningham, Daniel, Sean F. Everton and Philip J. Murphy. 2016. Understanding Dark Networks: A Strategic Framework for the Use of Social Network Analysis. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

Hanssanpour, Navid. 2016. Leading from the Periphery and Network Collective Action. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Knoke, David and Song Yang. 2007. Social Network Analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Mizruchi, Mark S. 1996. "What Do Interlocks Do? An Analysis, Critique, and Assessment of Research on Interlocking Directorates." Annual Review of Sociology 22:271-98.

Video: The Hidden Influence of Social Networks