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Thursday, April 28, 2011

American Economic History

I finished my last paper for American economic history today. The professor gave us the option to get one of two textbooks so of course I got both and read them cover to cover. Rather than make anyone suffer through two posts I'll just do a single post about them both.

The books were American Economic History by Hughes and Cain and get ready for this title, The Evolution of the American economy: Growth Welfare and Decision Making. Surprisingly enough, the one that was a more challenging and informative read was the one with the shorter title. Since the Evolution was published about ten years ago, I suppose that speaks well for the literacy of college students today vs. a few years ago.

So what did I learn? I learned an amazing amount of history about the Civil War. I'd heard of Robert Fogel by coming across his name in a few other textbooks but I was completely unaware of all his work surrounding the civil war. I was familiar with him as a railroad skeptic, meaning he believes that much of the economic growth of the US would have happened without railroads, and I'd heard of his work in anthropometrics. I hadn't heard about Time on the Cross though, what a bombshell what must have been on the 70s economic scene. I won't comment on the content, I may need to run for public office someday but I will say that the coverage of his work was very detailed in the textbook and it was good and balanced and well, interesting. Personally I love how history has become more than dates and places and now you have to think and do math and understand models.

Another part of economic history I'd never really put a lot of though into was the rise of mass distribution. I know it's a big part of our history, the stories about Sears and J.C. Penny and Woolworth's are as much a part of American capitalism as J.P. Morgan and Rockefeller. For all my life though stores have always just been there. I never really thought about how stores carrying a stable set of items at fixed prices was actually an economic revolution. I can't imagine haggling over a can of beans or a burrito for lunch every day. Can you tell I'm itching to have some good Mexican food?

The descriptions of the Great Depression were pretty enlightening as well. I've of course read plenty about it in Macroeconomics and in history books but it was nice to see them smashed together.

I finished my last paper today, except for minor edits I'm done with the course and I'm glad to be done. I don't think Umass Lowell offers any other economic history classes so I guess I'm done with them. Guess what? While I was finishing it up I saw that the boom and bust folks have another video out so I'll leave you with the most awesome economist rap video in history, it's even better than the first one

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roland's Restaurant

Unfortunately, if I Google my first name  and the city I live in I don't even come close to being on the first page. Most of the page is taken up by Roland's Restaurant, a highly regarded diner in the tree street area of Nashua. My wife and I passed up several establishments that we had coupons for in order to give the place a try.

The restaurant is on a main road coming off of the freeway, right off the exit is a series of stop signs and every time I drive down the road I manage to miss at least one. If I ever get a ticket it will be for running a stop sign off of exit four in Nashua.

Urban Spoon had the restaurant listed as a French restaurant, I've never been to a French restaurant or eaten any French food other than French toast. After seeing the menu I realized that Urban Spoon had it all wrong. The menu was fronted by a generic Greek style picture. You know the one you've seen a hundred times with the picture of the Parthenon-like structure on the front. I didn't see any Greek items on the menu though, instead it had a large assortment of burgers, pizza and dinner specials like roast lamb shank.

[caption id="attachment_531" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="My Big Fat Greek Menu"]Roland's Menu[/caption]

My wife and I decided to order the same thing, we tried the Fish and Chips. The food was fantastic and the service was not too bad. The waitress told us the Fish and Chips were better than Brown's Fish and Chips at Hampton Beach. I won't ever have to go compare because the fish at Roland's was fantastic. What I liked as well is that they served a fair portion at a fair price rather than bringing out a mountain of food for a couple bucks more.

[caption id="attachment_532" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Fish and Chips"]The Fish and Chips at Roland's[/caption]

After we ate at Roland's we went to the bodega next door. I haven't been to a slummy little grocery store since Las Vegas and this one had all the usual trappings of an establishment that caters to the lower class. It had lottery tickets, a variety of international grocery selections and a large selection of the world's cheapest wine and beer. Joanna picked up some coconut milk, I picked up a lottery ticket and some MD 20/20. The lady at the counter had a hard time counting money for some reason, she almost gave me three dollars in extra change. That's a hard route to take when you are running a low margin business like that. When doing business in a location where you're likely to be a semi regular victim of robbery and shoplifting, I can't imagine that you can mess up the till too much and stay in business for too long.

The lottery ticket was a loser of course, not that you expect to win in that part of town. I was happy to be supporting the schools and jails in my local community and to dream the dream of picking up a spare $20. I lost big time on the "Mad Dog" though. When I lived on Fremont street in Las Vegas, the low quality liquors I was partial to were the malt liquors so I never did a wine tasting on skid row. Bumwine.com has been warning me about this vicious liquid for years but I failed to listen. In spite of the label promising me the sweet, sweet taste of tropical banana, whatever was inside that bottle tasted like the contents of a bum's stomach. I seriously tried my best to swallow more than a cupful, but the sour taste of ripened sweat and bile made me want to vomit. I ended up flushing most of it down the toilet. I guess being able to afford a cheap vodka in a PET bottle is one more reason for me to not pack it all in and live on food stamps.

So if you're looking for something to do one afternoon and are around the bad parts of Nashua, do visit Roland's restaurant but do NOT take the wine tour.