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Jun 28 2008

Haggling

Jamie Barrows

I don’t often have an occasion to haggle. And that’s probably a good thing, since I don’t do it very well. But yesterday I went to a local Bazaar. A place where haggling is the only way prices are set.
Now, I wasn’t really planning to buy anything, but as I browsed through the stalls, a few things caught my eye. Specifically a set of hand carved coasters and some marble chess sets.

As I was looking at the coasters, the stall owner came up to me and asked me how much they were worth. Since I had no idea, I told him so. Then he threw out an amount and asked me if I thought that was fair. It didn’t sound bad, and it was definitely less than I would have paid back in the US. So I ended up buying them. I was happy with what I paid, but I didn’t haggle over the price at all. Which means I paid way too much.

That was really driven home by my next experience. At a stall on the other side of the Bazaar, I found some really nice chess sets. Again, the stall owner saw me looking at them, and cornered me before I could leave. he started off telling me what a great deal he could give me on the chess set I was examining. He threw out a number($150) for the set I had in front of me. I wasn’t really sure I even wanted a chess set, and that number made up my mind for me. So I told him I wasn’t interested. But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. So he lowered the price. I had already made up my mind not to buy it, so the lower price didn’t phase me. But the more times I said no, the lower the price got. By the time I finally said yes, he had reduced the price to $40.

So by accident, I actually managed to do a decent job of haggling. Though I’m sure that if I tried to do the same thing again on purpose, I wouldn’t manage any where near as well. LOL


Jun 27 2008

Hot showers

Jamie Barrows

Shower

Today I was surprised by a rather nasty wakeup. I got up from my bed and stumbled over to the showers for my morning wakeup and cleanliness ritual. Now, I wasn’t really awake yet. So needless to say, I wasn’t very observant.

I turned on the shower and got undressed. Still not noticing anything out of the ordinary, I jumped into the shower and immediately became wide awake. Water was ice cold. This isn’t the first time I’ve had to suffer through a cold shower, but in this case, I wasn’t expecting it.

Needless to say, I took a very short shower this morning. So today I’m very thankful for little things. Things, like hot showers, that you take for granted right up until you don’t have them.


Jun 20 2008

History Repeating

Jamie Barrows

Desert gateRecently I’ve been really thinking about our (The US as a whole) purpose for fighting in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. Officially we are over there for the protection and safety of our nation. The goal being to keep the terrorists from having safe bases and launching points. That’s why we went to war in those countries, and that’s why we are still fighting there.

The goal is valid, and the reasons we went to war are still pressing. And even though many people disagree with the war, if we had it to do over again, I’m sure we would go to war again. We really don’t have a choice if we want to keep living the way we do. So we have to fight this war. No matter how much we may not want to.

The problem is, that we just can’t win it. The only thing we can do is fight the war. We could lose it by quitting, but we can’t ever win it by continuing to fight. So what are we doing? We are fighting a holding action to keep people we see as “modern barbarians” down.

And that has some chilling parallels to history. Specifically the Roman Empire. In the later years of the empire, the majority of the empires military was used almost exclusively the keep barbarian tribes and nations out. Rome worked hard to keep the barbarians weak and disorganized. The barbarians wanted Rome’s land and riches and were a constant threat to Rome’s security. If they remained weak and disorganized, then they couldn’t threaten Rome.

In our case, the “modern barbarians” aren’t interested in our land, but they do want our influence and riches. Western culture is influencing and infecting their societies. Which ultimately threatens their traditions. Furthermore the West(and the US in particular) is rich. Far richer than most of the rest of the world. So they attack us. And our answer to their attacks, is the same as the Roman answer. We attempt to hold them down. To keep them from being able to attack us, we station troops in their nations and territories.

Sure we try to educate them and change their society. We try to make things better for them. But it really isn’t working. Largely because change in their society is one of the reasons why they are fighting us. So the only thing we are really accomplishing is keeping them from having the capability to attack us. The scary thing is, that it didn’t work for Rome, and it is unlikely to work for us. And even worse, none of us can think of anything better to do.


Jun 17 2008

Fear of Rejection

Jamie Barrows

I was listening to a CD by Fort Minor the other day. (If you haven’t heard their music, you should check it out. They’re pretty good.) The last track on the CD is called “Out the Back.” One particular phrase from the track really caught my attention.
It goes like this,

“Slip out the back before they knew you were there, and at the worst you’ll see nobody cares.”

The reason it caught my attention was that it really fits my first reaction to any situation where I’m afraid of other people’s reactions. Especially when that fear is of rejection. It somehow seems better to discover that no one cared that I wasn’t there, than to be rejected.
But is it really better? How many opportunities have I missed because I was afraid of being rejected? Friends, jobs, relationships, the list goes on and on. Why is rejection from a stranger or a passing acquaintance such a big deal for me? Is my self worth so low that a rejection from a person or group that I will probably never see again really going to destroy me?
Sure rejection hurts, but it really isn’t going to hurt me that much long term. Certainly no worse than the discovery that no one cared like the song said.


Jun 15 2008

Purpose in life

Jamie Barrows


The other day I was having one of those bad days. The kind of day where I get depressed about my life. When that happens, I start questioning everything about my daily activities. Why do I do the things I do? Do they really make me happy? What is the point of anything I do?

That kind of thinking usually pushes me into a deep depression. But this time I was trying to think positive. And as I was trying to pull out of the whole depression state, I remembered something I memorized as child.
It’s an excerpt from the Westminster Shorter catechism.

“Q. 1. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”

Am I glorifying God in my daily life? Maybe my frequent bouts of depression and dissatisfaction are actually because I keep losing focus and forgetting what I’m supposed to be doing here on earth.


Jun 14 2008

Opportunities

Jamie Barrows

Reaching Hand
I’ve been really thinking about how fortunate I am. Actually everyone from the US is incredibly blessed. Sure, we have poor people and rich people. We have homeless people and we have people who are in bad shape financially. The difference is that even the worst of us are better off than people from most of the nations in this world.

In this country anyone who wants has a chance to become wealthy. If you make good decisions and work hard there is no reason not to expect you will someday retire with considerable wealth. Furthermore, anyone can be whatever they want to be. It doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, or if you are born into a trade or not. If you want to become something, you can do it. There isn’t anything holding you back.

I’m not saying everyone makes it. And I’m not saying that coming from a wealthy family doesn’t help. All I’m saying is that we all have a chance and we know it.

What would it be like to grow up somewhere that that isn’t true? A place where if you are born poor, you have no hope of ever being anything but poor for the rest of your life. Where you can’t be anything you want. That’s what it’s like in most of the rest of the world.


Jun 12 2008

Thinking the Best

Jamie Barrows

reaching for the sky

At my current job, I work with a pretty good group of guys. Most of them are easy to get along with, and all of them work pretty hard. One guy in particular is an extremely hard worker. He does his job without being told, and will even go out of his way to find work to do when his normal duties are completed.

You’re probably thinking that this guy sounds like a model employee. Someone who works without supervision. An employee that goes above and beyond what is required. The thing is that he has one big glaring fault. A fault that negates most of the good qualities I mentioned above. He literally can’t work with anyone.

The reason he can’t work with anyone is that he always assumes the worst about his fellow employees. By that, I don’t mean that he thinks all of his fellow employees are evil. What I mean is that whenever something comes up (good or bad), he assumes the worst possible motives of those involved.

So advice or critiques of his work (which is actually pretty good) is taken as a personal attack by the person giving the advice. And praise for his work is taken as an attempt to suck up to him for some future gain. If one of us is falling behind, he automatically assumes that the person falling behind was slacking off and not working. Any mistakes other employees make are taken as evidence that that person is stupid or doesn’t listen to instructions. Even in normal conversation, he assumes attacks on him whenever something is said that offends him.

With an attitude like that, you can understand why he can’t work with anyone. He claims that everyone he has ever worked with has “stabbed him in the back” at some time. If you always assume the worst of everyone around you, then it has to seem that way. You end up angry at everyone around you all the time. Which can’t be fun or even healthy.

The thing is, that most of the time he is completely wrong about people’s motives. But because he always assumes the worst, he always feels let down. Wouldn’t it be better to assume the best of someone? At least until the person has proved you wrong several times.

There are plenty of bad people in the world, who do have bad motives for what they do. But there are plenty of people out there who are just normal and don’t have an ulterior motive. If you just give them the benefit of the doubt sometimes, you will be surprised at how often you are right. And in the end you’ll be a lot happier and have more friends.


Jun 8 2008

Perceptions

Jamie Barrows

Traffic Blur

I watched the new Rambo movie a couple of days ago. It was actually pretty decent for an action film. Not a lot of plot, and very bloody, but good overall.
The premise is that Rambo has to go in to rescue a group of missionaries that have been captured by the Burmese military. The plot line is a bit weak, but what can you expect form a Rambo movie.
The thing that struck me was the portrayal of the missionaries in the movie. Throughout the entire movie they are portrayed as naive and out of touch with the real world.
Rambo cautions them against going into Burma unarmed, but they won’t listen. Instead they tell him that weapons are the problem. So they refuse to carry them.
He saves them from river pirates, and they tell him that violence isn’t the answer. In fact, they tell him they are going to report his killing of the pirates to the Burmese government.
They bring prayer books to people who are starving. They sing hymns and read Bible stories to people who are under attack. They just have no concept of what is happening all around them, until it happens to them.
So that made me wonder. Is that how people see Christian missionaries? The movie wasn’t anti-Christian and the Christians in it weren’t portrayed as bad people. They were just portrayed as people who don’t understand the world.