A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Part 1/3)

In this post we will detail the Executive Summary of the Renton Printery’s Business Plan.

Executive Summary

My grandfather, a pressman by trade, first acquired the Renton Printery in 1971.

Little did he know that eventually, his business would grow into one of the most respected institutions in the city of Renton, now run by his son (that is, my father.)

The Renton Printery can profitably deliver printing services to the South King County area by marketing to key figures in our target audience and by commencing operations with the right personnel.

Under the management of my father, the shop has cultivated a specific customer base who are willing to buy our shop’s products.

My father, along with myself and several other employees, currently operate the shop, bringing our accumulative expertise to making sure the shop stays profitable.

The financial and logistical affairs of the shop, such as our accounting, facilities, equipment, and IT, are matters which are too sensitive to discuss in his post series, but are nonetheless very important.

In this business plan, we will examine all of these and how they will be melded together to form a clear pathway to prosperity for the shop.

The Renton Printery, steeped in family history, craftsmanship, and service to the local community, can bring all of these strengths to bear in the tough and competitive printing market of today.

In the words of Benjamin Franklin, a personal hero of both myself and my father: “By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.”

Thanks to this business plan, we will not fail.

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A Business Plan for the Renton Printery (Introduction)

Those of you who know me personally know that I currently work at my father’s print shop.

This family business has helped me to remain gainfully employed, to one degree or another, since 2011.

I currently hold the title of “Marketing Director,” but in reality I am responsible for a wide range of tasks, including data entry, bookkeeping, and sales.

The accumulated experience I have gathered in my work at the shop has led me to decide to engage in a not-so-short thought experiment, wherein I will outline a business plan for the Renton Printery.

Are you ready to begin? Return tomorrow.

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Goodreads Review: The Gospel According to Jesus

The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says The Gospel According to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says “Follow Me”? by John F. MacArthur Jr.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This rather old book by John MacArthur was a read that rocked me to my core. I had previously heard of MacArthur’s controversial doctrine of “lordship salvation” from persons (or persons who knew such persons) who clearly had a bone to pick with him.

But I am convinced that MacArthur’s theology is grossly misunderstood. Contrary to popular belief, MacArthur does not espouse a works-based-salvation theology. Rather, he advocates for a doctrine as old the New Testament itself: “You shall know a tree by the fruit it bears.”

In a nutshell, MacArthur’s main beef is with ministers who refuse to question the idea that mere assent to basic theological facts (i.e., the so-called Four Spiritual Laws) is equal to saving faith.

Instead, says he, we will know if a person is saved if their actions reveal a changed heart. They are not saved if they insist that they are saved but to do nothing to demonstrate such a reality.

What MacArthur’s ideological opponents have wrong is that they believe that he is espousing a “faith-plus-works” theory of salvation. Such a view is obviously heretical, but this man is no heretic. MacArthur would be a heretic if he stated that we will be saved if we do enough good things meriting salvation, our faith be darned.

But MacArthur plainly does not say this. Instead, he says that faith is good, but it will be known to be genuine, saving faith if a changed life is the result. Such a change can only be effected by the Holy Spirit, a doctrine which no one doubts.

I therefore highly recommend this book as a good kick-in-the-pants for the spiritually lazy. It sure did for me.

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Beard Gives Madison High Marx (Federalist 10)

While watching a Hillsdale College Online Course on The Federalist Papers, I discovered why I so intensely dislike John Green.

It seems that Charles Beard, a noted political scientist of a progressive mindset, caused an uproar in academia in 1913.

Beard, in his own studies of the Federalist Papers, came to a startling conclusion regarding the political philosophy of James Madison.

It all came down to Madison’s definition of “factions.” Madison defined them in Federalist 10 thusly:

By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.

The problem arose when Beard determined that James Madison’s talk of “factions” in Federalist 10 was not in reference to what we today call “special interests.”

According to the Dr. Paul Moreno, Beard instead believed that Madison was actually referring to political parties, which included Madison’s own Federalists, along with Washington, Adams, and so forth.

If this is the case, then the inference can be drawn, as Beard evidently did, that Madison was glibly alluding to politicians like himself quarreling over the right to exercise power and expand their personal interests.

Such reasoning led to Beard being called a Marxist, but his book nevertheless remained quite influential.

Why does any of this matter?

It matters mainly because Beard’s ideas, which I believe are recorded in his 1913 book An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States, have been extraordinarily influential in modern, popular accounts of American history.

This was plain to see in a 2004 PBS documentary on the American Revolution which I saw on a Netflix DVD a few weeks ago.

Much emphasis was placed on the Founders’ desire to achieve gentlemanly dignity on the level of the crowned heads of Europe.

Similar cynicism is on display at John Green’s YouTube channel CrashCourse, which includes a playlist on American History.

In one video which is characteristic of all of his content, Green takes every opportunity to portray the leaders of the American revolution as greedy, power-hungry bigots.

His annoyingly smug display of ignorance is, I’m quite certain, attributable to an understanding of American history stemming from Charles Beard. I would not be surprised if recreational marijuana use was also a factor.

(Incidentally, I highly doubt that Green, best known for authoring The Fault in Our Stars, has enough historical literacy to even comprehend that Beard’s philosophy was likely popularized by the late Howard Zinn, which was in turn disseminated in legions of American public schools.)

Charles Beard’s linking of James Madison’s talk of factions to Marxist theory has thus led to scholarly confusion, resulting in ignoramuses like Green endlessly spreading misinformation about history.

(For more on Green’s ignorance, see this blog post by J. S. B. Morse.)

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Guest Post: Make A Trendy Noise Unto the Lord

Note: This is a guest post from David van Mersbergen.

Coming from a musical family with a church organist parent and grandparent, David began musical training at the age of eight years old with piano lessons. He began vocal training and choral singing in high school and continued in college with several tours of major cites in North America. He has studied music theory and history. His study of aesthetics as a branch of philosophy had guided his efforts to seek out music and art worthy of study, analysis, and praise. He continues to pursue musical performance by participating in community and professional organizations.  

The discovery was made when I performed “Hotel California,” a piece I had previously detested.

It had been sung very badly on many long bus rides to basketball games, track meets and field trips. Worse was that this piece had been singled out by many charismatic preachers in the late ‘70s to be about the church of Satan.

On playing it, however, the chord progressions were sound and made sense according to the rules of music theory. It should come as no surprise that the shock at how good this song was had context.

After playing Christian contemporary music with its three-chord variety for the last eight months, a song with eight distinct chords was welcome. How fun it was to play music that had intelligence to its chord progression.

I found it odd that music written about ‘materialism and excess’ was more musically deep and lyrically profound than most of the music written for praise and worship.

Don’t get me wrong, a lot of pop music is trite, stupid and poorly written so as to appeal to the masses of musically illiterate consumers, but why is it that Christian contemporary music strives to emulate that kind of music?

What makes Christian contemporary music so horrible has been the subject of many posts on Facebook, as well as an episode of South Park.

Lyrics that are theologically untenable or fallacious, as well as overwhelmingly sentimental, provide little more than mind numbing ear candy for churchgoers.

Christian lyricists are not poets by any means.  If a song about creation contains the word “trees,” there will be in the following line the word “breeze.” Sadly, too many lyricists are not familiar with basic theological principles.

Songs proclaiming the love of Jesus Christ come across as if the singer is in love with a matinee idol. Don’t think so? If a song actually names our Lord and Savior instead of just using “you,” substitute “Justin” or “Liam” for Jesus and see how one-dimensional this praise and worship song is.

Pop songs that come across as desperate and codependent are now fit to bring into church because it’s Jesus you’re singing about. They are insulated from literary criticism by virtue of their being “spirit-filled” or “anointed.”

The unfortunate implication is that lyrics are more important for working a crowd or congregation into an emotional high rather than for opening the mind to hear the law and gospel of God.

Why does CCM all sound the same or just plain awful?  The limited number of keys that most CCM is written in explains a few things.

Sadly, the guitar has replaced the pipe organ as the instrument of choice for the church and music director. The keys of E, D, G, A and C are the most comfortable keys for the guitar player. This is true for many pop and country and western songs.

One humorous YouTube video (Editor’s note: Video contains brief profanity) claims that all country and western music is the same, splicing clips of different songs into one loop until it sounds like a regular song.

Why? Aside from topics (trucks, beer, women), the keys and chord progressions are the same. The I-V-IV and I-VI-IV-V chord progressions are the most commonly used progressions in popular music.

Any melody can be written over these three or four chords with hardly any effort at all. With no harmonic variety in the music, the songs end up fundamentally sounding the same.

Praise and Worship leaders with little education in Western music, whose only exposure to music has been radio, television, and movies, churn out songs that reflect that exposure to the three-chord harmonic progression.

The result is that second-rate lyrics and simple chord progressions that were once the bastion of pop music have become customary in the Christian contemporary music.

Taking their cue from pop culture’s standard of quality, pastors and worship leaders embrace the lowest common denominator and clean it up (or wash it in the blood of Christ) for church.

Christian contemporary music is bad because the popular music it copies from the world is bad.  Lost is the idea of sacred music and the effort to produce it.

For most of the history of Western art in general, and music in particular, the Church, along with some of the aristocracy, was the major benefactor funding music for church worship services and ceremonial occasions.

Now the Church has become a consumer of popular music in its effort to reach a broader audience.

Pastors with little adherence to orthodoxy and practically no education in music or art now think the process of approaching God with humility, begging for forgiveness, receiving pardon for sins and resolving to lead a sanctified life should make way for a more palatable, seeker-friendly message.

Wanting to attract newcomers or those who are “turned off by traditional religion,” pastors and church leadership make the church service entertaining.

Congregations now confuse worship with entertainment, as if God needs a catchy tune get an audience. Such an objective can also be accomplished via a pole-dance.

Getting membership has become more important than proclaiming one’s sins can be and are forgiven, and that we are restored to a relationship with God.

Pastors have allowed the attention-seeking lead singer to educate the congregation on what music is.

Hymns with four-part harmony and theologically sound lyrics are replaced with karaoke-style sing-a-longs.

The cycle is complete when the young musician with mediocre talent decides to go to school to be a music leader, but has never read or sung a hymn, heard an oratorio, or seen an orchestra perform a symphony.

The church used to transform the culture, now it has become transformed by it.

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Building my Own Threshold

Early on in the maintenance of this blog, I planned a series of posts centered around Joseph Campbell’s monomyth.

The monomyth (more popularly known as “the Hero’s Journey“) was supposed to guide my own endeavors as I sought to succeed in obtaining employment.

The problem with my original set of posts regarding the subject was that my presupposed outline for my life hinged on me being accepted into the Praxis program.

After being tossed off the metaphorical threshold steps (twice!), I sank into a period of aimlessness. I took whatever work I could, trying to make sense of everything.

In many respects, I was quite lucky. I had no debt and my friends and family supported me.

Looking back on this period in my life, trying to track my life-goals according to a mythological theory was quite foolish.

Life, quite obviously, is not a story. I believe it was in the recent film Their Finest that one character stated: “Stories have structure, purpose, and meaning… unlike life.”

I should really watch that movie.

So what am I doing now?

For one thing, I have recently enrolled in fall classes at a local community college.

I’m doing administrative, marketing, and sales work at my family’s business.

I’m researching possible careers to pursue and the best course of academic study to fit such a career.

I’m reading a lot of old books, working on several creative side projects, and am writing this blog.

In a word, I’m building my own threshold, where the only threshold guardian is me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Joseph Campbell’s theory of the monomyth, as espoused in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

As a guide for story structure and dramaturgy, it’s an excellent tool.

But regrettably, it’s a pretty suckish model to plan your life around.

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Check out my Civics Tutoring Gig on Fiverr!

A quick update, loyal readers!

I’ve recently added another service under the Freelancing page of this blog: Civics tutoring.

My civics tutoring gig on Fiverr will allow me to teach you or your child about civics and American government.

The teaching of civics is a woefully neglected, malnourished discipline in this country’s public schools.

But fear not, gentle reader! I can help you or your child learn as much as I can teach about the finer points of the American Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and related subjects.

If you go to Fiverr and look at the listing, you will find that I offer three packages: Learner, Student, and Scholar.

The Learner package consists of one 30-minute lesson.

The Student package consists of a 1-hour lesson with an accompanying homework assignment.

The Scholar package provides five 30-minute lessons for the price of four, in addition to homework assignments and a dedicated syllabus.

If you want to learn more about American Civics, have a child who needs the instruction, or know someone else who fits these categories, then I’m your man!

Get in touch with me on Fiverr today!

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Why Read Old Books?

Note: This post is adapted from a speech I gave to my Toastmasters club.

Russian physiologist Ivan Pavlov once said, “If you want new ideas, read old books. If you want old ideas, read new books.”

Following this observation, I have made a point to read old books.

Pavlov’s maxim applies to both fiction and non-fiction, from the epic poems of Homer to the stories of Washington Irving to Greek philosophy to the Bible.

Picking up a dusty copy of The Iliad will transport to you the world of raging Achilles and bold Hector in the carnage of the Trojan War.

Or you could make a trip to rural New York, circa 1790, and become acquainted with the fearful Ichabod Crane in The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.

Either of these books would excellently reveal to the reader that the heroes and villains of the past weren’t so different from us.

Whether it’s the wearied prince Hector’s longing for peace, or the hapless Ichabod’s unrequited affections for Katrina, we can all see something of ourselves, both admirable and repellant, in these imaginary characters and the eras they inhabit.

Reading old books is beneficial because it allows the reader to glimpse into other worlds, in order to better understand the past and to apply it to the present.

When I say you should read “old books,” I generally mean you should read the classics. That said, what is a classic?

Orson Scott Card, the author of Ender’s Game (an excellent read, by the way), once defined a classic as stories that are so good you want to share them with your children.

When I was seven or eight years old, my mother gave me a new set of books to read: The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis.

I loved those books dearly, reading them and re-reading them, and being overjoyed to hear the audio drama versions of them, before being crushed when the films failed to meet my expectations.

I later read The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien, eventually finding my way to Shakespeare’s plays Hamlet and Macbeth, and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. By the time I was 18, I had read the entirety of the Bible ten times.

All of these aforementioned books, written across multiple continents in the span of dozens of hundreds of years, have been passed down through the centuries to us. We can read all of them at any time on our cell phones.

But why read them at all?

The first reason to read old books is that it provides a window to the past.

At some point in time, the author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Washington Irving, sat down and thought up his story.

Irving was an American, influenced by stories of European folklore that he had picked up during his travels through the continent in the nineteenth century.

Reading his story allows us to get acquainted with his thought process and walk around in his mind a little.

Imagine what could have inspired passages such as this one, describing the town of Sleepy Hollow:

“However wide awake they may have been before they entered that sleepy region, they are sure, in a little time, to inhale the witching influence of the air, and begin to grow imaginative—to dream dreams, and see apparitions.”

You see that this is a time when the majority of people took the reality of the supernatural for granted— whether that idea lay in base superstition or religious faith.

To look back on such a concept with disdain would defeat the purpose of reading old books. Our ancestors were no more ignorant than we are, and in many ways were our intellectual betters.

Instead, our goal in reading old books is to look into the past, seeing a world that is very much like ours.

Take The Illiad for example. This epic poem is one of the foundational works of the western canon.

In Homer’s poem, the warriors on both sides of the war, the Achaeans and the Trojans, frequently blame the gods for their troubles, and the gods are shown meddling in human affairs quite frequently.

This human tendency to want to assign direct blame for misfortune and injustice to an ethereal, all-encompassing source is not new.

If there’s one thing that I took away from listening to The Iliad on audiobook, it’s that people have been saying, “It’s not fair!” since 800 B.C.

So whether you’d like to peruse the works of Washington Irving, Charles Dickens, or C. S. Lewis, or perhaps more ancient writers like Homer and the multitude of authors responsible for the Bible, I cannot recommend reading old books more than enough.

For there is no better way to enrich your mind, discipline your imagination, and open your eyes to another way of life than to turn the pages of a classic tome.

If any of you have children, grandchildren, or young nieces or nephews, your duty to pass on these great books is crucial.

The older generation must teach the younger generation of this important pastime. Otherwise, we face a new age of darkness, chained in the bonds of ignorance.

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Fiverr Fail

A wise man once said, “Experience is a hard teacher. It gives the test first and then teaches the lesson.”

Following this principle, I now know that in the future, I must read the fine print. As a general rule, you should read everything. Just in case.

Case in point, I recently opened a new page on my blog, dedicated to my Freelancing ventures via Fiverr.com.

It’s a fun little website, where I can sell my services to others and get some extra cash.

But unfortunately, my first real investment in the platform resulted in a Fiverr Fail.

To cut a long story short, I purchased on Fiverr a beautiful video explaining my service as a ghostwriter for comics, meant to service artists who can’t write.

Unfortunately, the Fiverr team did not approve my video, as it contained the web address for this blog, in violation of Fiverr protocol.

But it wasn’t a total loss. I may have spent forty bucks on a video I can’t use on Fiverr, but I can use it here.

I do hope you all enjoy this lovely video, created by a Mr. “Artwong.”

Please see my new Freelancing page for more information!

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Goodreads Review: Twelve Years a Slave

12 Years a Slave12 Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I saw the movie adaptation of this gripping slave narrative on DVD three years after it came out in theaters.

The movie brutally related a terrible, horrifying, heartrending tale of pure injustice. My history teacher said that the movie reminded him of the film “Schindler’s List”, in that he thought it was a good movie, but would never want to watch it again.

Putting aside the movie, the book “Twelve Years a Slave” adds layers of personality to our narrator, Solomon Northup, renamed “Platt” after being kidnapped from his life of freedom in the north and being sold into slavery in 1850s Louisiana.

Northup relates his tale of woe in grinding detail. He relates the general customs and traditions of enslaved blacks, the way of life of a local Indian tribe, and the range of personalities exhibited by his several masters, from the kind-hearted Baptist minister William Ford, to the lecherous and sadistic Edwin Epps.

Frequently given are the full names of persons involved in the events Northup recounts. He wanted to demonstrate that it is a wholly true story. A modern writer would have gotten lost in these details, but Northup’s aptitude for succinct descriptions and biting sarcasm result in a slim read which could be finished in a weekend.

Padding out my edition, which I acquired at a bargain price from Barnes & Noble, are a series of essays. The include an essay by Steve McQueen, director of the 2012 film, along with essays on the subject of slave narratives by a handful of academics.

Unfortunately, I was not able to finish the final, concluding essay in my edition, as I unfortunately misplaced it soon after I had reached that portion. A pity, but I am glad to have read the book at all.

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