Don’t forget the economics!

My latest project is a book, Economic Episodes in American History, forthcoming from Wohl. This book shows how economics shaped key parts of economic history. You can read about it here. Mark Schug and I worked hard putting it together, and we think it will be great for history teachers. Personally, I enjoyed finding out lots of neat things I didn’t know about American history. I hope history teachers will enjoy it, and use it to show students the economic side of history. We’re beginning to get a little buzz about it: see here and here.

Save on Wireless

Amazing smartphone strategy

There’s a lot to like about a smartphone — voice and text, together with Internet access and email and apps. But the service is so expensive every month. Is there any way around it?

Yes, there is. Here is how I have smartphone service for under $10 per month: I bought a new, unlocked LG Optimus T for $185 from a well-regarded eBay vendor. I got AT&T prepaid GoPhone service, put $100 on that, and bought 100MB of data for $19.99.

Now, here’s the key: I use as much data as I want without charge wherever there’s free wifi (including my office, my home, and my favorite restaurant). When I’m out of range I use data for any reasonable purpose — but don’t stream any music or videos. The result: 100MB of data lasts a long time. To keep my data current, I roll it over once a month for $4.99. Text + data + voice runs less than $10 a month, on average.

This is not for everyone. If you want instant access to Internet, music and video anywhere — or if you spend a lot of time talking and texting — you’re better off with an unlimited plan.

Finally, for those who think $185 is a lot to pay for a phone and get one “free” with an unlimited plan for only $60 a month: That adds up to $1440 over two years. My approximate expense for those two years is about $240 for service plus $185 for the phone, or $425.

For more on this strategy, here’s a thread with full details that gave me the idea. Update: If you look at this link, you’ll see that AT&T — and others — are trying to eliminate the strategy I’m suggesting. For now, my AT&T limited data plan is still working. If it’s eliminated, I’ll probably go to this T-mobile plan (not nearly as good a deal, but possibly the best that can be had for now).


The grammar game

Here’s a fun game to play with people who care about grammar (word use, sentence structure and all that):

1. You hear incorrect grammar spoken, either by another person in the room or by someone in the media.

2. You repeat the thought, but with the grammar corrected. (This must be an actual grammatical error, and not just a matter of taste.)

3. If no one else in the room catches you doing that, you get one point. If others catch you, they call “correction!” and you lose one point.

Example: A news reporter says, “There’s lots of reasons why the opposition party will gain seats.” You say, “That’s right. There are lots of reasons why the opposition party will gain seats.”

Hint: When you’re playing against an experienced player, wait a few minutes before making a correction, preferably when someone’s phone is ringing, a dog is barking, and Girl Scouts have arrived at the door to sell cookies.

One other thing: At our house, correcting sportscasters will get you zero points. It’s just too easy.


“Lost” time

Even today, people have strong opinions about the series finale of Lost on ABC television. I can’t add much to what the reviewers said, but there are three things that come to mind:

  1. Overall, I liked the series.
  2. For a supposedly intellectual series, there sure was a lot of on-camera time devoted violence and threats of violence. Lots of beatings and shootings.
  3. Like some fans, I was hoping the finale would provide some coherent story of what the island was and how it worked. It didn’t. The producers even apologized a bit in the two-hour leadin to the series finale, saying the series was always about the people and not so much the mythology of the island.

And with it all, yes, I liked the series.