Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Phone Companies, Oh My!

I'm a AT&T customer, have been for years, since I got my first cell phone (huge honker -- remember them?). I'm currently not under contract. Recently I got a phone call making me a very nice offer if I'd re-up for two years. So, I went on line to investigate. New free phone, good; no shipping, good; and, as I started to check out and order my new new new phone, an $18.00 "Upgrade Fee." Whoa. "Why," I asked myself, "should I pay them $18.00 when I'm obligating myself to be a customer for two more years?" I decided that there was no reason, so I simply ended the transaction. Sorry AT&T, that last little grasp for my money did y'all in.
More out of curiosity than anything else, I beetled over to my local Verizon store to see what they had. Boy is that a regimented place. They have an electronic name board and they give you an incomprehensible booklet, and you get to try and understand the phone array until your sales associate notices you. First thing the guy said was, "There is a $30 sign-up fee." I told him to go no further and exited stage left, since that's where the door was. On my way out, I asked myself, you guessed it, "Why should I pay them $30 so that I can obligate myself to them for two years?"
Now, if either of those companies had said, "Welcome [your name here]. We intend to make quite a lot of money off you in the next two years, so there's no entrance fee," I'd have hopped aboard. I wonder if the phone companies have any idea at all how much business they lose because they can't resist that last gratuitous little charge?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Plato believed in reincarnation. Of course, he was living in a small, stable, population, so he could speculate about it. I've always been skeptical, because the theory (doctrine? dogma?) of reincarnation can't handle population growth very well. If humans began with Eve about 200,000 years ago, then where did the "souls" that transmigrate originally come from? And where do they come from today as population continues to grow worldwide?
But what got me thinking about the whole thing again is the question of how the concept got started in the first place. At what point did one person say, "Our souls move from person to person. When you die, your soul goes into some newborn"?
Someone had to make that hypothesis. I wonder what caused her or him to do so. If we could see into that first instant when a person had the idea, we might get an idea of what it is that makes the concept of reincarnation so persistent, despite there being absolutely no evidence for it (Forget hypnosis and "channeling." They're bogus.)
Did that first theorist see his or her mother in the eyes of a newborn? Did a young man show the characteristics of an ancestor? Did a young woman act like her dead grandmother?
Reincarnation as a doctrine gives us lots of avenues for speculation and creativity (One of my favorite novels, Ursula LeGuin's The Tombs of Atuan, is based on reincarnation), but as far as it having any logical or scientific basis -- it ain't there.