To Soak or Not to Soak?

Food and Drink

Kidney_beans - photo by Sanjay Acharya

My biggest cooking frustration? Waking in the morning to assemble ingredients for the slow cooker, only to find I’ve forgotten to soak the beans overnight.

No problem, Plan B is always the “quick soak,” i.e., boiling the beans for five minutes then covering and leaving to soak for an hour. That is, if you have an hour to spare before leaving for work.

Turns out, there’s no reason to soak beans, at all. Or at least that’s what food editor Russ Parsons contends in a recent LA Times piece. In it Parsons surveys the history of the soaking question, talks with food writers on both sides of the aisle, attempts to put the question to bed with science, and crows that he’s been anti-soak for decades. The article even looks at the question of beans and flatulence!

“That’s wrong,” says my wife, when she asks me about the bag of unsoaked beans among the rest of my ingredients. She recites the main reasons an overnight soak is necessary: cook time, tenderness vs. mushiness, flavor, and, yes, reduced flatulence. I’m not surprised by her recalcitrance in the face of legume reform. Every bit of advice I’ve ever seen, heard, or read sides with my wife.

Yet, here’s Parsons from the LA Times article.

Letting dried beans sit overnight in a bowl of cold water does nothing to improve their flavor or their texture. In fact, it does quite the opposite. . . . Finally, soaking does absolutely nothing to reduce the gas producing properties of beans.

We shall see. I’m dumping the bag of unsoaked pinto beans into my Crockpot, now . . .

Bean Soup with Tamarind and Ginger (7-qt. slow cooker)

1 lbs. dried  pinto beans

0.5 lbs. ham hocks

2 lbs. chicken drums

5-inch piece fresh ginger sliced

1 can tomato, diced 24-oz.

3 med onion, cut in 1/8th’s

6 dried red chile peppers

5 tablespoons tamarind soup base

7 cups stock + 2 cups water

12 cloves garlic, sliced

1 bunch kale or collards

Directions for SEVEN QUART Slow Cooker:

Wash and sort beans.

Place all ingredients (except for greens) into slow cooker.

Switch slow cooker to high until simmering.

Switch to low.

Cut greens into 2-in. strips and add 10 – 20 min. before serving.

Exciting New Anime: Knights of Sidonia

Media

Knights of Sidonia lifeboat pod

No matter how much I like an anime series, I hesitate to make blanket recommendations. I’d hate for my writing to entice someone to watch anime for the first time and have them come away thinking I have terrible taste in TV. See, there’s a learning curve to watching anime. (The giant anime sweat drop? It means he’s embarrassed.) Without “anime literacy” an anime newbie can watch even the best series and think it’s silly, or worse, a product for children. Knights of Sidonia is definitely not for children.

Also, even the best anime suffers from radical swings in quality over the course of a long season. Think of Joss Whedon TV shows—Buffy, Dollhouse, Firefly. We love them for their high highs, despite the admittedly horrid lows.

That said, Knights of Sidonia (KOS), a recent Netflix Original Series, is some of the most thrilling military science fiction I’ve seen in a long time. It’s certainly not without its shortcomings. Its relationship drama doesn’t succeed the way the military aspect does; the several love-triangles and the central rivalry between the hero and his nemesis are so thinly drawn as to feel tacked on. Yet the stunning battle scenes–the eye-popping visions of sci-fi adventure futurism–make the series more than worth one’s while.

Although I don’t have time to review KOS in full, here, I’ll drop a few observations.

1) How to Repopulate the Human Race

The show’s renderings of deep-space survival create an intriguingly realized future. Sidonia is a “seed ship.” It’s a Battlestar Galactica setup. When the earth was overrun by aliens, the last survivors escaped on Sidonia and survived seven centuries drifting about the galaxy. How did the seed ship repopulate the human race? Successful cloning explains all the look-alike characters in the cast. Others form a “third gender,” changing sexes depending on available partners. Apparently there are limits to seeding “success”: Sidonia holds regular mass funerals for compulsory deaths to keep its fragile ecosystem in check. An “organic converter reactor” processes all the bodies and human excrement for fuel that powers Sidonia.

2) Hillarious Site Gags

KOS re-imagines space travel in (ahem) compelling detail, like the skin-suit catheter (see image). Not only is the catheter necessary for spending many hours (or even days) in the tiny cockpit of a giant robot, the skin suit also filters urine for drinking water.

In one quiet scene our hero averts his gaze to leave his co-pilot her privacy while she photosynthesizes. (Yes, in the future we will only eat once a week because, via genetic modification, we will all photosynthesize.) But because they’re in the glass-bubble cockpit, he can’t escape her nude reflection. Hence, he doubles over in discomfort at the emergence of his catheterized erection!

3) Space Opera!

The space opera (i.e., soap opera in space) elements are by turns wonderful and awful. In quieter moments, the romance between the hero and his love interest can be quite affecting, like when the two are stranded in deep space together, trying not to freak out in the face of dwindling food and water rations.

Sadly, the show’s fan service tends towards the sleazy: untold millions were spent to animate the zero-gravity jiggling of curvy female figures in skin-tight space suits.

4) Warning:  It Goes Fast

That the script doesn’t wait for slower viewers can be a bit frustrating at times. Like any good cyberpunk fiction, KOS respects the intelligence of its audience, rarely overexplaining its backstory and future-tech. The show assumes fans will take multiple passes by hitting rewind or will binge-watch the whole season again later, anyway.

For instance, there appears to be a blunder of failed script-supervisor continuity when we watch a pilot eject from her exploding robot in only her space suit. But in the next scene we see her floating in a spherical, escape-pod lifeboat (see image at very top of this post).

Where’d that come from? Turns out the escape pod is stored in each pilot’s backpack, in some futuristic wonder of nanotechnology. Very cool. I definitely missed it the first time around.

KOS escape pod A-0

KOS escape pod A

KOS escape pod B

KOS escape pod C

5) The Good with the Bad

It’s a shame the first half of Episode 5 gives us one of the most exciting battle scenes ever filmed, a thrill negated by the episode’s second half: an overlong, ham-fisted delivery of backstory, all in unnecessary and terribly written dialogue. When Captain Kobayashi argues with Dorm Mother Lala, she reminds her of a factoid neither could have possibly forgotten: “We’re the last two surviving members of the first strike team in human history to have destroyed a gauna, 600 years ago.” Ugh.

I guess it’s no worse than Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead talking out loud to God, the empty chapel amplifying his cartoonish Southern accent.

6) Coincidence or Cosmic Convergence?

Though spelled differently, the series shares its title with the Muse album “Knights of Cydonia.” Coincidence or cosmic convergence? Judge for yourself by watching the hilarious, sci-fi/kung-fu/spaghetti Western mashup video of Muse’s song on YouTube:

Beer Roundup #10: Three Coffee Stouts

Food and Drink

Lagunitas Cappucino Stout coffee beer

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

 

A Note on the Style:  Coffee Stout

Coffee Stout is actually not a style you find described in the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program).  A coffee stout is essentially an American stout in which the brewer has added coffee beans or grounds to the boiling wort.  The result is generally a beer of middling alcohol content (say, 5% – 7% ABV), low to middling hop bitterness (30 – 60 IBU), and a pronounced roasted coffee flavor.

Cappuccino Stout, Lagunitas Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.2 / 5
22 oz. bottle, 9.2% ABV, 82 IBU.

This is a double stout, by the way.  The other two beers in this roundup are regular stouts.

A nice looking pour from a bomber into a tulip glass. Somewhat thin-looking, black, to be sure, with a smallish head, and very sticky lacing.

Perhaps this bottle hasn’t benefited from sitting in my cellar for five months. The coffee aroma seems muted.  A lactose smoothness in the nose makes the coffee-and-cream character astonishingly accurate.  (Pretty sure this was not brewed with any lactose, though, so technically it’s not a “sweet stout” or “milk stout.”)  There’s some vanilla, biscuit, unsweetened cocoa, and a grassy bitterness that must be hops.

Coffee flavor in the mouth is highly bitter, a mouth-puckering acid disrupted some by a milky sweetness that renders the burnt flavor a semisweet chocolate. The vanilla comes forward, with lots of dark chocolate and a subtle buttery caramel. Finish dries out a bit . . . No. Scratch that. The finish is pretty dang sweet. Yes, it’s black coffee and sugar.

If not for being a bit watery in body, the lactose-seeming creaminess makes the “capuccino” element awesomely spot-on.

I used to be in love with this beer. I’m wondering, it should be noted, if five months sitting has hurt this beer. I’ll have to wait ’til next year to see if a fresh specimen recaptures that old magic.

Jingle Java, Bent River Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.55 / 5
12-oz. bottle, 6.5% ABV, 29 IBU.

How lucky to have found this winter holiday beer still lingering in the singles cooler of my neighborhood bottle shop.  It’s fabulous.

This is the most stunning coffee flavor I’ve ever had in a beer. It really is an iced-Americano, with carbonation. The aroma is pure cold coffee with milk.

Flavor in the mouth is uncannily straight-up fresh-brewed iced coffee. There’s a tart, tinny hop bitterness that tries to remind one this is beer. But the aggressive French-roast flavor resists such a notion. There’s a nice sweet vanilla in the background that helps a milk chocolate undercurrent emerge from the dark depths.

Best coffee stout I’ve ever had. Blows doors on New Glarus Coffee Stout. While there are better coffee-infused stouts of imperial strength (Central Waters Brewhouse, 8.2%; Southern Tier Mokah, 10%), Jingle Java beats anything in the 6% – 7% alcohol range.

I wonder how much the low bitterness (29 IBU) plays a part in this brew’s success?

Java Lava, Pearl Street Brewing Company
Rating:  3.9 / 5
12 oz. bottle, 6.0% ABV, ? IBU

Wow, a third really good coffee stout in one night. USA! USA!

Earlier I had Jingle Java, by Bent River, out of Rock Island, Illinois. I’ve heard Bent River has an amazing imperial stout festival. The Jingle Java was actually a cut above this one, but this is still rather decent.

It’s not over the top amazing, like the Jingle Java. But this beer has an excellent demitasse essence.   Great creamy mouthfeel, despite the high carbonation.

Hmm.  As the level in my glass recedes, I see it’s actually nowhere near as good as the Jingle Java.  But it’s a solid brew.

Beer Roundup #9: Three Double IPA’s

Food and Drink

Hop Juice

To Buy or Not to Buy?

1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best

A Note on the Style:  Double IPA, Imperial IPA

Imperial IPA, a.k.a. Double IPA.  A friend of mine recently asked about the terminology.  Rather than referring to an increase of ingredients or the number of fermentation stages, “double IPA” is a nickname for “imperial IPA” (from the acronym “IIPA”).

Hop Juice, Left Coast Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.14 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 9.7% abv, 82 IBU.

From a bottle into a tulip, it pours a hazy amber, with very little head, but prodigious lacing.

Remarkably reserved, semisweet aroma. A pleasing herbal and earthy hop aroma. Some barely perceptible Wonder bread in the background, though one must strain to detect the mere whiff of grain.

In the mouth it’s an interesting sub-piney bitterness.  No, wait, I’ve got it:  it’s cold sake!  Very bitter on the backend.  Balance comes from a neutral (not sweet) maltiness. No, scratch that.  As it warms, there’s a serious candy sugar sweetness. Deep hop flavors dominate, spurred on by a sharp alcohol twang.

Medium-bodied, almost chewy. Well-carbonated, with a slippery alcohol warmth.

A very good double IPA, though not as malty as I like them. It supplies a nice sweetness, but it’s missing something. Can’t quite put my finger on it. Nevertheless, I think I’ll be buying one more 4-pack (though none for the cellar).

Palate Wrecker, Left Coast Brewing Co.
Rating:  4.18/5
12-oz. bottle (4-pk), 9.5% abv, 100+ IBU.

Wow, what a great smelling beer.  Its claim to fame is its aggressive hop bitterness.  But the sweet aroma is my favorite feature of this brew.

It’s an awfully handsome, clear golden pour into a tulip, with a big cottony head that sticks around.

The aroma really distinguishes this brew. Sweet, juicy fruits galore: red grapefruit, pineapple, and finally sweet tangerine. Perhaps a honey/floral tea character.

In the mouth, the early sweetness is all fruit juice. Yum.  The hops come on as a salty, white grapefruit bitterness. There’s almost no malt sweetness; the sweetness is fruit, only. Not candied fruit, just ripe, juicy, sweet citrus. Once it’s down the gullet, the aftertaste turns sharply bitter, as if smearing the the throat with white grapefruit rind. That hurts this beer.

Great medium-bodied richness. The high carbonation is a welcome cleanser.

Heelch O’Hops, Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Rating:  3.95 / 5
12 oz. bottle (4-pk), 8.7% abv, 100 IBU

This brew was featured in a Draft Magazine article that had everyone talking, “Three Imperial IPA’s That Rival Heady, Pliny.”  The title truncates the full names of the two beers roundly considered among the best double IPA’s, “Heady Topper” and “Pliny the Elder.”  Those two are also among the most difficult to find beers in the US.,  which is why people are always looking for close substitutes.

Heelch O’Hops ought not to have been included in that article.  (The other two beers featured:  Doozy by Mother’s Brewing and Hopothermia by Alaskan Brewing.)  Heelch O’Hops is certainly not bad.  It’s just not anywhere near the vicinity of elite class brews.

It pours a finger of white head atop a thin, clear, yellow liquid. The foam leaves lacing stuck hard.

A disappointingly subdued, peppery aroma of shy hops. No detectable malt presence in the nose.

The flavor is also disappointing in the mouth. Where’s the malt, the sweet, or the bread that I want in a IIPA? The hop character gives grapefruit pith, rather than sweet orange or tropical fruit. An astringent pine on the back end forces one to take this brew seriously.  It’s that bitter.   Finishes bitter-dry.

Thin body, with moderate to high carbonation.

A quality brew, to be sure, but disappointing that it’s merely an IPA on steroids:  it’s got none of the malt balance or bigger body or sweet fruit of the double IPA’s I love, such as Hopslam, Chillwave, Hi Res, or Double Crooked Tree. Especially disappointing at $12.00 / 4-pack.

Easton Bell Sports: Now That’s Customer Service

Entrepreneurship, Health

Easton Bell $0.00 highlighted

Just wanted to send out some well-deserved praise for a company with excellent customer service.

Last December I damaged my Giro snowboard helmet.  I bent the metal snap of the goggle strap on the rear of the helmet.  (I mean the strap at the rear that clamps down over the strap of ski goggles).  After unsnapping the strap to remove my goggles, I found I could no longer close the snap.

I use this snowboard helmet for winter cycling.  As I don’t have a car, I need it on a daily basis.  This was an especially cold winter here in Madison.  I generally switch from wraparound glasses to ski goggles below 15°F.  While I don’t use goggles everyday, this is Wisconsin!

So, I emailed Giro, asking where I could buy the replacement parts.  I wasn’t optimistic.  In this age of disposable products and terrible customer service (I’m looking at you, AT&T, major airlines, Chase Bank, etc.), I half-expected to be told there are no replacement parts, if I were to be answered, at all.

They actually got back to me the very next day.  It was Customer Service Rep Amber Thomas, from Easton-Bell Sports, the parent company of Giro.  She said she would put the replacement strap in the mail, and I should receive it by the end of the week.  Sure enough, the strap arrived two days later.  I was thrilled to be able to use my goggles the rest of the season, without having to buy a brand new helmet.

(For those of you who say you don’t need the helmet strap to use goggles:  while running errands around town on my bike, I’m constantly removing my goggles and putting them back on.  This is much, much simpler to do with your helmet’s goggle strap latched to your goggles, as if the goggles were an integrated part of your helmet.)

When I wrote Amber back expressing my gratitude, she replied, “We just want you to have a fully functioning helmet.”

What you’re looking at in the image above is the packing list that arrived with the replacement parts.  Notice the figures listed in the “price” columns.  That’s right, “$0.00”

But, wait.  There’s more.

Several years back, I had a great little micro-light for the top of my skating helmet.  This was back in Houston, where the heat and humidity made Rollerblading at night the natural choice.  You need a light to skate at night, obviously.  Some of you may know this micro-light I’m referring to, called The Flea, by Blackburn.  They still make the Flea, but back then the Flea charged off of any battery via a little charging device.  My charger had a wire break loose.  I emailed Blackburn about it.  Same as with my helmet, Easton-Bell Sports, the parent company of Blackburn, sent me a replacement charger at no cost.

We’re talking a company with nearly $1 billion in annual revenue.  So how do they succeed while giving away equipment at no charge?  By making lifelong customers like me.  That’s how.

Just FYI, after selling one of its several manufacturing divisions, the company has recently rebranded itself as BRG Sports.

Beautiful New Business Cardholders

Entrepreneurship

IMG_3297

IMG_3301

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all the mind-numbing busywork of starting a new business, certain tasks come with real  emotional rewards.  That’s certainly the case in choosing this new business card holder.  Like practically every other piece of start-up research, this one took time and shoe leather.  After visiting four physical shops and nearly two dozen Etsy stores, I finally settled on this handsome handcrafted wooden piece.

What clinched it for me was the manufacturer, Inelastic Goods, is a one-man operation based right here in Madison.  Steve, the creator of the line, delivered the item himself, eager to show me six or seven different models.  I jumped at the chance to buy two additional cardholders at a discount.

I’m keeping the white oak for myself and have bought two of the darker wenge wood models for gifts.  The wenge wood model is striking in the contrast of two dark planes sandwiching a lighter maple side piece.  The white oak does the opposite, playing up the continuous grain and color, as if the box were carved from a single block of wood.

IMG_3308

IMG_3307

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All models come with a magnetic closure that clicks shut oh so satisfyingly.  I catch myself playing with it constantly.  Plus, beyond the visual delight of the hand-finished hardwoods, Steve’s execution of the clean, minimalist design is unparalleled.  Each piece feels stunningly smooth in the hand, the joinery, edges, and curves so silky and organic.

By day, Steve works as an engineer for the state of Wisconsin.  On his own time he exercises his entrepreneurial spirit, refining his craft, streamlining his processes and tools, with the aim of not only perfecting the product, but boosting productivity.  His woodshop has become so efficient, he’s recently made good on a private order of sixty business cardholders to a private individual.

Head over to Steve’s Etsy shop for a look at the different models:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/InelasticGoods?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Beer Roundup #7: Three Midwest English Barleywines

Food and Drink, Health

Whole Hog BW

To Buy or Not to Buy?
1 = horrible
2 = bad
3 = average
3.5 = good (many better beers out there; won’t buy this again)
4 = very good
4.5 = great
5 = rare best 

A Note on the Style:  English Barleywine

I prefer the malty “English” style barleywine over the hoppy “American” style.  All barleywines have a stiff malt backbone and generous sweetness, but the hop-forward American-style is often so bitter as to be indistinguishable from a high-alcohol double IPA.  Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are double IPA’s; I love me a double IPA when it’s got intense sweetness to offset the high IBU, like Bell’s Hopslam, Dogfish Head 120 Minute, or Founders Devil Dancer.

Despite my preference for the maltier English barleywine, it’s curious that I’ve found way more good American barley wines than English ones.  

How to explain this?  Is the English style BW less common in the US?  Not really.  Nearly every brewery that produces American barleywines also produces English ones.  The more likely explanation:  brewing a good English barleywine is more of a challenge because it doesn’t have the pronounced hops to balance the jacked-up sweetness.  Hence, many are sickeningly sweet, like Anchor Old Foghorn or Weyerbacher Blithering Idiot.

But all three specimens below are really good.

Stevens Point Barley Wine Style Ale (Whole Hog Series), Stevens Point Brewery

Rating:  4.44 / 5

12 oz. bottle (4-pk)  10.2% abv, 73 IBU.

From a very reasonably priced 4-pack ($7), the first sip has me totally psyched.

It’s not a great looking pour into a tulip glass, with barely a half-finger of white head atop the opaque, red-tinged, brown murk. Sticky lacing, with legs.

Very little in the aroma, probably just too cold. But bready, mildly floral, and of course malty in the nose, plus a grape-like, mildly acid wine character. Even after it warms, the nose remains reserved.

But in the mouth, now this is a provocative surprise. Stevens Point Brewery, for those of you not from Wisconsin, is an old-time adjunct-lager outfit, one of the oldest breweries in the US. My Midwest beer friends rarely say anything nice about SPB, so I wasn’t expecting a lot from this brew. But this is right up my alley. It’s a complex sweetness, like that of my two favorite English BW’s,  JW Lees Harvest Ale and Midnight Sun Arctic Devil. The grainy biscuit flavor is what backstops the sugar-sweetness, not any bitterness. Some will call this cloying. I love it. The sweetness rounds out with an estery, mossy oak. The butter/caramel is of the burnt variety. There’s milk and coconut, too.

The mild to moderate carbonation is a welcome cleanser and leavener of the oily-sticky feel.

I’ve gone back to Riley’s Wines and snatched up the last two 4-packs. One goes in the cellar, the other down my gullet!

Schell’s Barley Wine (Stag Series), August Schell Brewing

Rating:  4.46/5

On tap,  9.5% abv, 80 IBU.

I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, thinking of Schell as merely an adjunct-lager outfit. What an awesome surprise.

On tap at Mason Lounge (Madison).  In a snifter, a handsome pour, a clear coppery amber with a finger of white head and good retention and lacing.

The aroma is a bit reserved.  There’s a diacytel caramel, dried fruit, piney hops, and a bit of sharp ethanol.

Flavor in the mouth offers sweet caramel, stone fruit, a bit of citrus, and a floral hop bitterness on the back end.  Finishes sweet, with a hint of grassy hops.  Alcohol is hardly there.

Upland Winter Warmer, Upland Brewing

Rating:  4.05 / 5

On tap,  8.5% abv, 47 IBU.

Pours a hazy, ruddy copper, topped by a fluffy, two-finger head.

A seriously complex aroma, the sweet swirls with the hops.  The hops come as white grapefruit and a bit of must.  The lovely roasted caramel struggles to dominate and ultimately does.

In the mouth the malt/hop tension from the aroma comes down solidly on the side of the malt.  Simple syrup on the front end, sweet butter and bread in the middle, plus fig and cinnamon-raisin ice cream on the back of the tongue. Goes down with just a rumor of bitter hops.  

Feels like a much bigger beer than it is, chewy, even.

Not nearly as good as the other two in this review, but it gets points for availability, as it’s pretty common to find on tap in Midwest bars in the colder months.

How to Create Pre-Press PDF Files on a Budget

Entrepreneurship, Media
bus-card Adler GRACoL 2006

Need to order a commercial print job from an online printer, but don’t have Adobe Illustrator ($560)?  That’s my situation.  I’ve laid out a nice business card in PowerPoint (above), including the logo I also designed in PowerPoint.  But Powerpoint does not produce vector graphics.   Printers need vector graphics.  They also recommend submitting PDFs that have been “pre-flighted” using certain Adobe Acrobat presets, such as PDF/X-1a.

Huh?

That’s what I said.  What a bear it was to research this.  And for an additional challenge, I wanted to see if I could accomplish all this on a budget.  I assumed I could find some vector-graphics freeware with which to reproduce my designs.  But the question remained:  how to  save the graphics file in the “pre-flighted” PDF  format that online printers specify?

(In case you’re considering skipping the preflighting step, know that preflighting helps avoid printing glitches such as font substitutions and color alterations.)

Turns out, the key to all this is Adobe Acrobat.

Some of this terminology rang a bell, as I used to  own the Adobe Creative Suite (ACS; back then, $1500) when I ran my photo equipment rentals business.  ACS includes all the programs that produce file formats press printers require, such as .ID (InDesign), .EPS (Photoshop), .AI (Illustrator), and of course .PDF (Acrobat).  I needed all four of them to design marketing materials for that business.  But that was four years ago.  For the past four years I’ve been running my healthcare business, with no need for ACS, at all.  Now that I’m starting up my freelance commercial writing business, I’ve been crossing my fingers that I won’t need to spend $1000+ on design software.

The bottom line is, yes, one can create vector graphics using freeware/shareware (I used Inkscape to recreate my PowerPoint designs).  But for press printing, you need to create properly preflighted PDF’s.  For that, you must have Adobe Acrobat (price varies depending on version and how purchased, $100 – $429).

I verified this by downloading the free trial of Acrobat 11.  With Acrobat installed, the Acrobat Virtual Printer will appear in your list of devices and printers.  (This is in Windows, obviously.)  You simply design your graphics in your vector software, then follow these steps to preflight your PDF:

1) “Print” your file (That’s right, “print” not “save”!)
2) In the print dialog, select Adobe PDF as the “printer.”
3) Click preferences (or printer properties).
4) In Preferences, the “Default Settings” area offers a drop-down menu of PDF format presets.  For business card printing, Moo.com specifies the preset PDF/X-1a:2001.  For printing a brochure, Vistaprint.com requires PDF/a-1b:2005 (CMYK).
5) Click okay to get out of preferences.
6) Click print.  You’re done.

Now you have your vector-based,  properly pre-flighted  PDF to upload to your online printer.

My Rental Studio Business: Big Multiday Photo Shoots

Entrepreneurship, Media
Magazine cover shot in my rental studio business

Magazine cover shot in my rental studio business

My Rental Studio Business:  Big Multiday Photo Shoots

Weddings in Houston, the city’s premier wedding vendor resource, shot many of its covers at my photography rental studio, Silver Street Studio.  Editor and publisher Radhika Day put together a crew that fired on all cylinders over the three-day shoot.  Crack stylist Summar Salah plied her stagecraft on three different glittery sets and twelve wedding gown wardrobes.  Hair and makeup by The Perfect Face transformed the models into showstopping brides.  And photographer Larry Fagala captured all the drama with technical expertise.

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One of three sets during the three-day shoot