How to Do It Better
Alumni experts offer handy advice
Compiled by Maureen A. Nolan, Kaitlin A. McCabe ’16 and Stacey J. Himmelberger P’15
How to make the most of your time
The expert: Lesley Alderman ’82, who wrote The Book of Times: From Seconds to Centuries, a Compendium of Measures (William Morrow, 2013) that explores how long things take, how long things last and how we spend our days
Keep it simple
Do one thing at a time — you will be more efficient and remember the task better. Split onerous jobs into 20-minute chunks (like checking and responding to email). Encourage your place of work to shorten one-hour meetings to 45 minutes. Delegate something you dislike doing. If you can afford to pay someone else to do a job, then outsource. (Think: laundry, cleaning, taxes, etc.) Stay present.
Time-wasters — or not
Social media! TV! Looking for things! Though people feel like they spend too much time on the above mentioned, they are not necessarily a “waste” of time — it all depends on the approach you take. Social media can help you stay connected with friends near and far, which is a good thing. One’s mental health is highly dependent on social connectedness. TV can be informative and give you social currency (as in “Did you see Downton Abbey last night?”). While looking for things can be incredibly frustrating, it can also spur you to become more organized.
People wish they had time to …
Read. Go to the gym. Spend time with friends and family.
People watch a lot of TV (three hours per day on average). However, given how great TV is these days, I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Five or 10 years ago, I would have found that stat depressing. Also, folks in their 60s and 70s are happier and less stressed than those younger or older.
Rush less, chat more
I’m a NYer, so I tend to rush around. But when I realized how much happier people are when they spend time socializing, I started to spend more time on random social interactions.
Take good notes
Keep a record of what you do each day, particularly the things that were momentous. Then, when it seems like the month or year has rushed by, you can look back at all the fun/amazing/productive things that you have done and feel a sense of gratitude.
Alderman co-wrote the “Patient Money” column for The New York Times for three years and is former deputy editor of Real Simple and staff writer for Money. She majored in psychology at Hamilton.
How to get a good night’s sleep
The expert: Daniel Rifkin ’88, medical director of Sleep Medicine Centers of Western New York
Don’t brush off bedtime
Make sleep a priority and don’t shortchange sleep for a good movie or book. It’s just not worth it. It’s important to go to bed and wake up around the same time each day. And once you awaken, expose yourself to bright light or take a nice walk outside to help set your sleep cycle (a part of your circadian rhythm). Also, try to avoid caffeine too late in the day, and get your exercise!
Sleep and older folks
Although insomnia is common, we tend to see it more prominently as we age. Menopausal women are commonly afflicted. However, most people don’t realize that it is normal to wake up a few times during the night as we age. We don’t sleep like we did when we were on the Hill! One major problem is the tendency for patients with insomnia to spend more time in bed to try to catch more sleep. In fact, the more time you spend awake in your bed and the harder you try to sleep, the more difficult it comes.
Your mattress and sleep environment in general (including a dark, quiet, cool place) are very important. And just like the 31 flavors of Baskin-Robbins ice cream, everyone likes something different. So be sure to find one that is comfortable for both you and your bed partner. And if you can’t agree ... there’s always the “Sleep Number Bed!” Really though, certain retailers allow a 30-60 day/night trial period, so I’d look for one of those so you can test it out.
Don’t suffer with snoring
Tell your snoring bed partner to go see a sleep specialist. I know a good one! Sleep apnea is a very common disorder and often associated with snoring and daytime sleepiness. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and even stroke. Sleep apnea is easily treatable and is lifesaving for some.
A to Zzzzzzzzz
We’ve all experienced the occasional tiredness of an “all-nighter.” But we’re learning about the long-term health consequences of inadequate sleep including an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and even dementia, to name a few.
Rifkin, who majored in religion at Hamilton, holds a medical degree from Dartmouth College.
How to camp with kids
The expert: Helen Burns Olsson ’88, freelance writer and editor, blogger and seasoned family camper
It’s all about the kids
It’s important to rejigger your expectations about what a camping trip is about. It’s no longer just about you relaxing by the fire with a good book or getting in a great hike during the day. It’s about exposing your kids to the natural world and instilling in them a love for the outdoors. It’s about getting kids off the screens and bonding as a family. If you can take a walk in the woods with your toddler and enjoy the wonder she experiences when she finds a ladybug on a leaf — or better yet, a dung beetle rolling a little ball of poop — then you’ve accomplished something.
Make a list
Not using a packing list is the biggest mistake a parent can make. You can’t wing it with kids or you’ll be up a creek without a ketchup bottle. Or diapers. Or tweezers. There are so many items that can really ruin a trip if you forget to bring them. I have a list of 147 things. I check it as I pack and before we roll out the driveway. Kids have their own specific set of gear needs, from portable high chairs and security blankets to Lego men headlamps and pint-sized water bottles.
Scary stories told around the campfire are such a quintessential part of camping. There are whole books dedicated to scary stories. It’s become a traditional part of our camping experience, but my children have never been afraid of the dark or the boogeyman in the closet. If your kids have more delicate constitutions, you might consider telling stories that aren’t intended to raise your gooseflesh.
You can do it
Everyone should camp! Even when things don’t go your way, the experience is likely to become part of your family lore. Sometimes a little adversity is just what a little body needs. One of my kids’ most memorable camping trips was to Isle au Haut in Maine. It was an incredible destination with incomparable views. We collected old lobster buoys that had washed up on shore (and gave them to the park rangers) and discovered a whitewashed lobster claw as big as my son’s head. But my kids will always remember that, in an effort to pack light, I didn’t pack enough food. According to them: “We nearly starved to death.”
Olsson, who wrote The Down and Dirty Guide to Camping with Kids: How to Plan Memorable Family Adventures and Connect Kids to Nature (Roost Books, 2012), was an English literature major at Hamilton.
How to lose weight … together
The expert: Thomas Bradbury ’81, professor of clinical psychology, UCLA
Set an example
Model healthy behaviors in small ways, every day. When we make an effort to be healthier — to be more active, get on the treadmill, buy and eat more fruits and vegetables, decide to forego dessert — our partners immediately live in a healthier environment, and it is then easier for everyone to drop a few pounds and feel more energized.
Enable, in a good way
First, when it comes to eating right, keep the unhealthy foods out of the house from the very start and bring in the healthy foods. Second, when it comes to exercise, give your partner the space he or she needs to be as active as possible — maybe that means babysitting the kids while your partner goes for a brisk walk or splurging on good running shoes for your partner. Be an enabler!
What not to do
Never nag. Our partners are more likely to change for the better when they feel good about themselves, not when they feel stressed, frustrated and unattractive. No one wants to be criticized for not being active enough, or for eating something unhealthy, or for backsliding on a new eating regimen. Instead, praise the things your partner is doing right.
This comment may backfire
Partners naturally offer advice from their frame of reference: “Just do X; that’s what worked for me!” Instead, help your partner develop a view of him or herself as a healthier person, from his or her unique vantage point. Ask some open and encouraging questions that can get him or her to a better place.
Bear in mind
Remember that becoming healthy can be difficult and frustrating. As you and your partner shift toward being healthier, you may encounter some turbulence. Even as you waver, never retreat from the longer-term goal. Don’t take no for an answer. Our relationships are perfectly suited for sustaining long-term commitments, and that can start with asking your partner to go on a walk with you, right now.
Co-founder of the Relationship Institute at UCLA, Bradbury engages in the scientific study of marriage, intimate relationships and interpersonal communication. He is co-author of Love Me Slender: How Smart Couples Team Up to Lose Weight, Exercise More, and Stay Healthy Together (Simon & Schuster, 2014). Bradbury holds a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and majored in psychobiology at Hamilton.
How to audition for a reality TV show
The expert: Andrew Savage ’85, who appeared on Survivor: Pearl Islands (2003) and Survivor: Cambodia Second Chance (2015)
Your audition video
Focus on your core characteristics that are interesting and might qualify you as the “sole survivor.” CBS is looking for dynamic, adventurous folks with tremendous and varied life experiences. Shoot a video that is true to yourself that uniquely highlights those traits — but don’t be boring. CBS production gets over 40,000 audition tapes for a single season and only takes at most 20. Be memorable.
The next phase
Be an A-type personality who never backs down. Speak your mind regardless of the situation. Call it like you see it. Truth hurts sometimes, and you’re going to hammer home the truth regardless of the consequences. Challenge everything. Essentially act like a head-strong, know-it-all jerk. Also, exhibit high-energy, crazy passion about the show and getting on it. Once you are on and playing the game, course correct as necessary (i.e., don’t be a jerk anymore), otherwise you’ll be the first one out.
Get a thick skin
Getting on Survivor is not normal life, and applicants need to understand that. In casting, the producers will fire crazy accusations and insults at you to incite a reaction and see what makes you tick. Many folks just sit there and simply take all of it. They are nice and cordial when, in truth, they are actually bursting inside ready to explode. Being tolerant is fatal and guarantees an immediate ticket home from casting.
Goes without saying?
My best advice is this: Survivor is looking for folks who, when they are sleep-deprived, starving and dehydrated in a remote location surrounded by nasty backstabbing people and being constantly ravaged by unspeakable bugs and creatures, never curl up in the fetal position and whimper. On the contrary, they stand up and scream as loudly as they can “I got this,” and they dig deeper than they ever thought possible to survive.
How to sell it with song
The expert: Casey Gibson ’09, musician and composer (including jingles for Purina dog food and Columbia Sportswear)
Be brilliant, be brief, be gone
Don't overwork your creation — sometimes less is more! A short by strong presentation is far more effective than an extended, fluffed-up one.
Go with your gut
Write a song that you like, not one you think other people might like. My favorite use of music in an ad changes all the time. Actually, my favorite original composition is for Reliant Energy, mostly because it's voiced by Matthew McConaughey.
Have a cure for writer’s block that involves getting out of your head. Go for a walk, go surfing, bake a cake, meditate. Do something that will take your mind off of your assignment because it will open you up to new ideas.
Don’t be a starving artist
Sometimes selling a product will come at the expense of your own creative tastes and judjment. There are times to fight and times to settle. Making a living is more important than pride in some cases.
How to unearth the past
The expert: Meredith Moodey Poole ’83, staff archaeologist at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Look what I found!
If you find an artifact and don’t know what it is, start with what you do know: What is it made of? Look for signs of wear that might suggest how it was used, or look for parallels in antique stores or in your own home. One more important note: Archaeologists advocate leaving the artifact in place and bringing the expert to the artifact — context is everything!
Tenacity and patience can never be over-rated, but neither can thinking creatively. Answers rarely come from the places you’d expect them. Beyond that, I’d say that any search benefits from the ability to weave multiple lines of evidence into a single narrative.
Getting to know you
I have done a little genealogical work and even more research into the lives of people to whom I’m not related. In all cases, I feel a little disappointed when all I have to show for it is a list of names and the dates of major life events. I don’t feel that I know those people. Details like food bones that reveal what people liked to eat, ceramic fragments representing purchasing choices, even seeds and fossilized pollen indicating what they grew in their gardens help to make people real and relatable. Artifacts are tangible links to the past, and they help us to connect.
Start with what you know
Focus first on the history closest to you and work backward. It’s always tempting to begin as far back as you can, but — particularly if you are looking into your own family history — begin with relatives who are still living. Interview them. Get their oral histories while you can.
I am struck by how resilient people are — how people in the 18th century and today are motivated by many of the same things and respond in ways that are entirely relatable. In some ways, I think that history provides safe distance from which to view ourselves and our own situation.
A couple that make my “Top 10” list: an early 19th-century sword still in its scabbard (found in a privy) and the broken handle of a silver porringer, destined for re-melting, that was engraved with the head of a Moor or African (tradesman, economic affluence and multiple cultures all represented in a single artifact).
Poole has a master’s degree in historical archaeology from the College of William and Mary and majored in creative writing at Hamilton. Although her interest in archaeology began when she was about 11, a summer archaeological field school in Belize while she was a student at Hamilton cemented her career path.
How to prepare for a colonoscopy
The expert: Jose Marcal ’72, P’05, board certified in internal medicine and gastroenterology
Happy 50th — It’s time
A colonoscopy is recommended for anyone over the age of 50 and for those younger who have bowel symptoms or a family history of early colon problems. The main purpose of a screening exam is to find polyps, mushroom-shaped growths that arise for unknown reasons, and to remove them. Many of these polyps are thought to give rise to colon cancer over about 10 years. An adequate and complete exam requires that the colon be as spotlessly clean as possible. It also requires the expert performance of a board-certified endoscopist — a gastroenterologist or colorectal surgeon.
You should inform the endoscopist of your medical history and prior surgeries and provide a list of your medications and allergies. Colon cleansing is best done by avoiding fiber in the diet for five to seven days before the procedure and staying hydrated all week. On the day before the exam drink only clear liquids and split bowel prep. Whichever prep you are prescribed, studies show that split bowel regimens are far superior to the old-fashioned “gallon straight-up” preps consumed the evening before.
Choosing an endoscopist
Be sure he or she is board certified in endoscopy and is recommended by your primary care physician. Ask physician friends or nurses who work with the endoscopist or, better still, find out whom they go to for their own colonoscopies. It is expected that physicians will soon make available their adenoma detection rate. That’s the number of procedures that result in removal of adenomatous (i.e. precancerous) colon polyps per 100 screenings. This should be a minimum of 15 percent for women and 25 percent for men, though most good endoscopists have a much higher rate of 30-40 percent. During the procedure, you will be given intravenous sedation or light anesthesia. Most patients are comfortable, but some may note gaseous cramping of the abdomen, especially if they have had much prior abdominal/pelvic surgery. Do not be afraid to speak up if you are more awake than you want to be or want more medication.
When it’s over
After the procedure, expect to be drowsy for one to two hours, and very gaseous. Do not be afraid to pass flatus freely in the recovery room. The sedative medications will cause some amnesia, so take the discharge information and instructions home to read later. Always have someone drive you home.
Marcal, of Digestive Health Associates in Stoneham, Mass., has performed an estimated 60,000 colonoscopic examinations. He has a medical degree from Columbia University, College of Physicians & Surgeons and majored in biology at Hamilton.
How to read the stars
The expert: Constance Stellas K’72, practicing astrologer
Reach for the stars
Reading some of the classic books on astrology is the best way to educate yourself. Some of my favorites are Sun Signs by Linda Goodman and Astrology, A Cosmic Science by Isabel Hickey. There is also Kepler College where students can major in astrology. The advent of computer software programs with tutorial lessons also is a great help. When I began to study, astrologers had to calculate charts by hand. This took at least 25 minutes (and I was very fast); now a computer can give you a birth chart with interpretations in 25 seconds.
One, we have free will and tossing your fate to your interpretation of the stars (usually negative) can be a recipe for a lazy, passive life. Two, learning about the positions of all the planets in your chart is a window into your soul and purpose in life. Three, astrology is extraordinarily interesting and was the science and philosophy of all the great cultures and religions for thousands of years.
Astrology vs. religion
A common misunderstanding about astrology is that it is anti-religion and smacks of fortune telling. When I do radio shows I get questions like “God is the maker of our fate and believing in astrology is from Satan.” My answer is that one of the most respected books about astrology is Christian Astrology by William Lilly. Also God made the stars and gave us knowledge to interpret their meaning.
When we pay attention to the movement of the planets that are close to the earth, particularly the Moon, we can harness our energies better and more efficiently. For example, every month there is a New Moon, a Full Moon and the Dark of the Moon. Farmers have planted by the moon; fishermen fish according to her cycle, and, of course, the tides follow the lunar rhythm. By paying attention to the lunar phase anyone can use the information to see whether today is a day to initiate actions or to kick back and wait.
Stellas is an astrologer and writer whose works include The Hidden Power of Everyday Things (Simon and Schuster, 2000), a “day-by-day guidebook that draws on numerology, astrology and the Kabbala to pinpoint, according to your birthdate, exactly which materials and objects you need to fill your life with fortune and happiness.” She majored in Russian history and English at Kirkland. (constancestellas.com)
How to maintain a professional social media presence
The expert: Jessica Moulite ’14, associate producer at Fusion, an ABC-Univision joint venture
Social is serious
It is incredibly career-critical for adults to have an impressive social media presence. For instance, LinkedIn is a place to connect with people in the workplace, from your alma mater and more — it is not a place to attach photos of your Caribbean vacation. The best rule of thumb when posting content online should be, “Will I regret this post, picture or status in five to 10 years?” Keep all social media accounts private to avoid any altercations.
The golden rule
Adults should strive to highlight not only their accomplishments but to celebrate the achievements of others. LinkedIn and Twitter are great in facilitating conversations about specific topics. Congratulating others is also a great way to share that you’re thinking of them in a professional manner, which could lead to more networking for you if you then discuss how you’re doing in the workplace. You should strive to have a mature, interactive and, most of all, appropriate social media presence. Mature in what is shared (chances are everyone has seen the latest Vine or meme taking the Web by storm — you don’t have to share it, too). Interactive in that you should be posting relevant content that sparks conversation, but remember to respond to what others say under your post. Being appropriate is key.
Although it’s easy to find and follow co-workers on every conceivable social media platform, remember you don’t have to. And if you do, it might be smart to place them under limited profile viewership. You would never want a workplace-related rant to get back to your boss.
How to pick the right dog
The expert: Malcolm O’Malley ’66, lifetime student of dog-human relationships
Cute doesn’t cut it
Before you can select a breed and start looking for a reputable breeder, the antecedent questions are: Is this the right time for a new dog or puppy? Do life demands at work or other commitments permit dedication to developing a dog long term? Does the residential setting circumscribe the selection process? With those answers, then ask, given that each breed has been developed to serve highly specific functions hardwired into the DNA, what “job” are you hiring your new dog to perform? Look way beyond “cute.” What is the preferred combination of physical attributes for your needs — non-shedding, less than a certain weight, exercise requirements? Finally, do you expect an autonomous stand-and-deliver personality or an enthusiastic companion, ready to follow the lead with a desire to please?
Leash your expectations
Many dog owners who know better still make mistakes in selecting a dog. They start with the expectation of an “instant” dog before training and time investment. Or they buy the “image” of a dog breed as seen in the hands of an expert — or choose a dog whose DNA, size or habits are ill-suited to their capacity.
To the rescue?
Ask yourself: If I choose this rescue dog, am I better qualified to own this dog, or am I making the same mistakes that the prior owner made? If I could choose any dog, and if this dog were not needy, would I still choose it? Remember that the people caring for rescue dogs are not in the business of saving people from themselves. Ask questions, and then ask follow-up questions, about the dog.
Now retired, O’Malley served as executive director of the Newark-Wayne Community Hospital Foundation and in development/alumni affairs at Portsmouth Abbey School. The owner of Luca, a Lagotto Romagnolo, he has taught courses on selecting and training dogs through the OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute at Rochester Institute of Technology. He holds a master’s of higher education administration degree from Syracuse University and majored in art history at Hamilton.
How to swim the English Channel
The expert: David Dammerman ’91, who swam the channel in 2013
Why take to the water?
Swimming is great for the cardiovascular system and building strength, especially for people who want to avoid impact on their bones and joints. It can also be very peaceful and help you leave the outside world temporarily behind.
Begin everything early
This includes training, budgeting, planning logistics and support. For something like a channel swim, three years is not too early. New skills take time to develop, and many people find swimming to be a particularly difficult skill to acquire. Be consistent in your training, and train for the conditions of the event: the distance, type of water, marine life encounters, etc.
Take small strokes
Start out easy and make steady progress. Find friends or a group to swim with. A little fun (and some social pressure) can go a long way. Leverage the help of an expert — YouTube, clinics, coaches, friends — to improve technique and training. Over long distances, little things make a big difference. Whether you want to swim fast or far, good technique can help you find comfort in the water.
Be safe and persevere
Know your limits and swim with a buddy or other support. Like many other challenges, the undertaking can appear impossible. If you enumerate the necessary skills and knowledge, you can identify the gaps in your own knowledge and skillset and work toward closing each gap. In that light, the goal can appear much more achievable.
How to acquire your first masterpiece
The expert: Mary Rozell ’84, global head of the UBS Art Collection
Know your heart
I view collecting as intensely personal. It’s important to get out and see as much as possible in galleries and museums in order to learn what speaks to one’s eye and one’s heart. What’s important to know is that art is unlike any other material good, and collecting is filled with all sorts of unique nuances and pitfalls. When the stakes are high, it’s crucial to be educated and seek good advice.
You may need help
If you are spending a relatively small amount for art that is more for decorative purposes, there may be no need to work with a professional. Obviously, as values go up, there is more need to seek independent advice. Even the most experienced collectors will want to sound out experts before making a serious acquisition. Others rely on art advisors because they do not have the time to get out and see a broad sampling of the art and/or because they themselves do not have access to the dealers. When it comes to sought-after works of art, a reputable gallery will not just sell to anyone.
Do the legwork
The biggest mistake is buying artwork without doing one’s due diligence. This is particularly important in the secondary (resale) market where issues of authentication, title and condition can be a problem. In the heated atmosphere of art fairs, which take place over just a few days and where a significant percentage of art transactions happen now, collectors are more vulnerable to buying on impulse.
The most important thing is to continue to seek knowledge. Don’t be shy about asking questions; most art dealers are more than happy to educate. Even seasoned collectors have a lot to learn when it comes to understanding the work of contemporary artists. Indeed, the real joy of collecting art is the process of discovery along the way, identifying works that resonate with one’s personal experiences or worldview. I’m fascinated by how individual works of art can provide pleasure for a lifetime.
Rozell wrote The Art Collector’s Handbook: A Guide to Collection Management and Care (Lund Humphries, in association with Sotheby’s Institute of Art, 2014). Having majored in French at Hamilton, she has a law degree from Pepperdine University and a master’s degree from the Courtauld Institute of Art, London.
How to cultivate leaders in the workplace
The expert: Dave Casullo ’84, president of Bates Communications, an executive coaching and consulting firm
Be authentic. Be intentional. Behave. The best leaders globally attract, retain, inspire and develop leaders. The very best share these traits — a quality of being real, genuine, transparent and sincere in their relations and interactions with others (authenticity). They clarify direction and keep actions aligned and on track. They don’t stifle healthy conflict; rather they invite it and know how to manage it for optimal decision-making (intentionality). They set the example with their behavior — in word and in deed.
Not recognizing that every moment of every day you are auditioning for credibility as a leader and not living up to the responsibility. Misfocus — when it comes to talent. Leaders who get extraordinary results know that it is primal to get their top 20 percent clear on their vision and engaged in the mission. First!
Demonstrate a genuine belief that all persons have worth. Speak clearly and thoughtfully. Care.
Fail, then fly
Anyone — and I mean anyone — can learn to become more effective as a leader. But first, you have to become impassioned by something that matters deeply. Then you have to fail at, inspiring action toward it. I highly recommend you fail. Then you will evoke the self-efficacy necessary to learn what it takes to be an effective leader. Without a purpose that matters, the leader inside each of us is dormant.
A leader in action
The CEO I worked for in the retail furniture business was a major mentor who created remarkable results — growing a retail business, in a mundane product category, during a major recession. Neil Goldberg had the rare combination of vision, wisdom and the ability to communicate. He listened, yet never abdicated responsibility for leading the way. He was tough on all of us, but he had a heart of gold. We won. Consistently. As a team.
Two books: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey and The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness by Joel ben Izzy.
How to teach like a rock star
The expert: Amanda Siepola '02, second-grade teacher
Be “the Boss”
In a post for the blog Innovate My School, I talked about why I want to teach the way Bruce Springsteen performs. There are four practices that Springsteen displays night in and night out that I want to emulate. He cares deeply for people, he is passionate, he creates something like a spiritual connection with his audience, and he builds an experience together with his audience, not simply for them.
Making it happen
The most important step is to learn to become and then remain reflective — about what you already know and what you don’t yet know about your students and about your daily decisions. This behavior ensures that, as a teacher, I don’t get complacent and that I’m constantly critical of my practice — which allows me to keep growing and getting better. And it also allows me to make sure that I’m continually cultivating an environment that’s best for my particular students’ learning, success and well being.
Lay it out
Start with your beliefs and values. Why do you want to be a teacher? What do you believe the purpose of teaching and learning to be? Every decision you make will stem from those beliefs. Second, education, and great teaching, are built on relationships. Get to really know your school community, your students and their parents, everyone’s strengths, weaknesses, joys, hardships, hopes and dreams. And, finally, keep learning. For me in terms of growing professionally, I seek out ways to learn what I don’t know, whether that be through my district’s professional development, guidance from my instructional coach, help from colleagues, reading a lot of books or finding my own workshops and training to attend. Basically, be passionate, care about your craft and strive to improve always.
Siepiola teaches at Horace Mann Elementary School in Washington, D.C. She has a master’s degree in teaching from American University and majored in history at Hamilton. The recipient of a Fulbright Award in Teaching, she conducted research about constructivism and play in Finland. She has presented her research about educational larp (live action role-playing) throughout DC, at the Living Games Conference and at the Nordic Larp Conference.
How to care for a loved one with Alzheimer’s
The expert: Nancy Avery Dafoe K’74, P’04, educator and author of the memoir An Iceberg in Paradise: A Passage through Alzheimer’s (SUNY Press, 2015)
Know the signs
During the early stage of Alzheimer’s, it is difficult to detect the disease and it often goes unnoticed or certainly undiagnosed. Looking back with greater knowledge, I now recognize symptoms that seemed innocuous at the time my mother exhibited them. It is never too soon to act on a health concern. If there is anything that seems off or does not feel right, see a doctor or take your loved one to a doctor for an examination. Early signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s, in particular, include things like higher incidence of repetition, word confusion, displaced emotion or gestures, odd reactions.
Ease your loneliness
Get help and foster connections. Don’t be embarrassed to discuss the disease or your concerns with professionals, friends and family. Alzheimer’s is a biological disease and nothing over which to feel shame, yet many people have this initial reaction. Alzheimer’s is also a disease that becomes increasingly difficult to manage, even dangerous, for a single caregiver. To be honest, it most likely killed my father, my mother’s primary caregiver, who died from falling down the stairs.
Take a break
Without time off or additional support, full-time caregivers are more likely to become ill and perhaps pass away even before the person for whom they are caring. An early step to help ease into managing care of someone with this progressive disease is to include sharing hours of care with others in the family or friends. Second steps, after confirmed diagnosis, include hiring home health aides to cover hours in a day or evening. Finally, full-time placement in a nursing home that has an Alzheimer’s unit is most often the final step for the person with Alzheimer’s. Although people wish to avoid this transition from home to a facility, it can be eased into by overnight stays for spouses and by finding placement in a facility with individual units and rooms for patients.
Dafoe, who has taught English and writing at the high school and college levels, has written several books, articles and poems. She holds an M.A.T. degree in English from SUNY Cortland and majored in English literature at Kirkland.
How to protect our national treasures
The expert: Nicholas Lund ’05, senior manager for landscape conservation, National Parks Conservation Association
Get out there
The most fundamental thing is just to visit national parks and other public lands, which will assuredly instill a love for these places and a desire to protect them. From Hamilton, the closest national park units are Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome and Women’s Rights National Historical Park in Seneca Falls. Both of these places tell a different, incredible story of American history. But there are a lot of ways to have an impact, whether you care about the large, natural parks or historical parks or local ones or whatever. Check out npca.org to find issues you care about.
Return on investment
Agencies that manage park resources aren’t given the funding they need to fulfill their missions. Studies show that for every dollar invested in a park, ten dollars are returned to the local community in terms of tourism benefits, but our parks are chronically underfunded and unable to properly maintain their infrastructure, care for natural and cultural resources, and provide the preferred level of interpretation. Closer to my work, the federal land management agencies responsible for oil and gas management are not given adequate funding to properly plan for development and inspect facilities.
In addition to funding, the biggest threat to parks is potential actions in Congress that could result in selling off our public lands, weaken environmental protections and devastate the national park system as we know it. What people can do is let their senators and representatives know that parks are important and worth protecting. I know it sounds like it doesn’t work, but contacting Congress works wonders.
Lund has a law degree from the University of Maine and majored in English at Hamilton.
How to make the perfect cookie
The expert: Stephen Durfee ’85, professor of baking and pastry arts at the Culinary Institute of America
Baking is a science
In the professional kitchen, we always use scales to weigh out ingredients, rather than relying on cups and spoons; it’s a more accurate system of measurement. If you do use a cup measure for flour, be consistent with the manner in which you measure — it’s better to spoon the flour into the cup, then level it off. Temperature is also key. Have butter and eggs at room temperature. This will help to ensure a smooth, emulsified batter. Cold eggs won’t blend evenly into butter, and the resulting dough will be grainy and not hold air as efficiently. Don’t over mix when adding the flour; blend only until incorporated. Lastly, preheat your oven. Use suggested time and temperatures as just that. Smell is the best indicator for doneness.
Mix, scrape, mix
When blending cookie dough in an electric mixer, it’s important to “scrape down” the bowl periodically to ensure an even distribution of ingredients. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to fine-tune the mixture. Otherwise, all the butter and sugar will hang out at the bottom and your cookies will have an uneven spread.
Patience is key
Give your dough time to chill thoroughly in the refrigerator before scooping out the cookies. Resting/chilling the dough over several hours (or overnight) will help to evenly distribute the moisture, which translates to better shape and texture.
After graduating with a degree in American studies, Durfee earned his cooking certificate from Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School. A member of the 2013 Pastry Team USA, he has received numerous honors, including recognition in 1999 as one of the “10 Best Pastry Chefs” by Pastry Art & Design and Chocolatier.
How to photograph a wild animal
The expert: Tia Strombeck Wirtanen ’81, nature photographer
Shoot with intention
You should be able to describe the goal of your photo. Is it to show a relationship between animals, motion, a behavior, etc.? The answer to that will help determine the subject, where you need to be relative to your subject, shooting angle, framing needed, focal speed or depth.
Get set up and ready in advance of any action. Clean your lens and set white balance, ISO, shutter speed and aperture. Be aware that as the light changes you will need to continue to monitor your exposure. When your subject does something incredible you will be so focused on the subject you won’t be thinking about camera settings.
Know your stuff
If you understand the behaviors of your subject you’ll be better able to anticipate its next move and be positioned to capture it. Read about the subject. A lot of this comes from observation and missing the good shots the first time. For your safety, understand the rules for that animal. I talk with locals, area guides and biologists to find the best shooting locations and times. Even if you return to an area where you’ve shot before, this may change with season and temperature.
It can take patience to build the trust of your subject. For a portrait, change your angle to be at the subject’s level or even slightly below it. The most powerful photos draw us in. You need to be critical of your photos and look for the ones with a “wow factor.” Use a tripod whenever possible to help ensure a sharp photo.
Bright isn’t better
The right light can take an average photo to an incredible photo. If you are shooting white subjects you risk blowing out the whites. Our brains are far more forgiving of very dark areas in a photo than a white area with no detail. On the other hand, you also don’t want photos containing a dark animal-shaped blob. If you are photographing a dark animal, a cloudy day will make that shot a lot easier. The lower contrast will allow you to get more detail.
Don’t pet the grizzly
It amazes me that more people aren’t injured in national parks. While the animals may be more used to humans in their environment, they are still wild animals — with built-in weapons. I frequently see people trying to get too close to animals that are showing stress or fear either to be in a picture or take a picture. They aren’t statues to pose in front of.
Strombeck’s work has been featured in National Geographic and Discover magazines. Along with her nature photography, she works full time in cyber-security. She majored in art and economics at Hamilton.
How to set a scene with design
The expert: David Tennenbaum ’78, set designer for NBC’s Chicago P.D.
Every element counts
Like every detail of a set, you need to consider the significance and aesthetics of each piece in a room. How does it define that room’s character? How does it relate to the area as a whole?
What’s the point?
When determining parts of a set, a designer must ask whether or not the pieces relate to the action of the scene. The same relates to organizing and designing any setting: It your idea practical? Does it in any way benefit the purpose of the room or is it just a filler? Don’t risk the unity of the space for mere aesthetics.
Let there be light
People don’t think about how natural light affects a room. Where are there windows, if there are any? Where are you placing lighting fixtures throughout the space? Is a lot of added light necessary? How do colors appear in that space based upon the natural lighting effects? These are very important questions people forget to ask when designing a space.
Inspiration comes from observation
Explore your surroundings. Observe the hustle and bustle of day-to-day experiences. Branch out from your neighborhood — visit your closest city, a museum. Don’t limit yourself to your personal knowledge of the world when designing a space — find new ideas by stepping out of your comfort zone and experiencing the world from a new perspective.
A set designer and modeler, Tennenbaum majored in art at Hamilton and continued his studies at Harvard University’s Graduate School for Design while designing performance spaces for the Boston Shakespeare Company. He has worked on such films as Road to Perdition (2002) and Divergent (2014).
How to retire with financial security
The expert: Thomas “Tommy” Thompson ’73, retired financial and management consultant
First, let’s define “financially secure.” Conventional wisdom used to be that retirees would need to achieve 70-80 percent of their pre-retirement income through a combination of pension, Social Security and savings yield. Lately, with pensions disappearing, and taxable 401(k) distributions taking their place, I suggest a “financially secure” retirement is one in which your savings yield, Social Security and all other income sources add up to at least 95 percent or more of your pre-retirement income.
Save, save, save …
You’re not raising kids or (maybe) not paying a mortgage anymore, but you’ll want to travel, pursue hobbies and enjoy other leisure activities that will soak up that income. Also, with taxable 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) distributions making up the bulk of your income, you’ll need to have money to pay those taxes. Achieving this is tough, but not impossible. The single most important thing you can do is focus on saving a substantial fraction of your career income — faithfully, regularly and from day one of your first job to your last day in the office.
… and save some more
Here are three vital ways you can do this: 1) Contribute the maximum amount that your employer will match to any 401(k) plan offered to you. When you change employers, roll that amount into a self-directed rollover IRA. Roll over into the same IRA (it’s legal) each time you change jobs. 2) Contribute the maximum amount to a Roth IRA each year. Your contributions will grow in a tax-sheltered environment, and the withdrawals in retirement, unlike from that rollover IRA, will be tax-free. If you are self-employed, open one of several small-business-oriented plans to hold your savings in a tax-deferred environment. 3) Make your savings through payroll deductions to the greatest extent possible, so the money never comes into your hands and tempts you to spend it otherwise.
Get in the game
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to learn to invest and then to invest with patience and a strong tolerance for the occasional economic travails that will come along. Security analysis and portfolio allocation are beyond my scope here, but get involved in your own investment choices. Take a course, get a Morningstar subscription, find a financial advisor you can trust, and pay attention!
How to retire with emotional success
The expert: John Brennan ’78, retired head of human resources
First things first
“The indispensable first step in getting the things you want out of life is this: Decide what you want.” — Ben Stein
Be intentional about this next phase of your life — whether you call it retirement, encore career or whatever. Think about the possibilities, what you enjoy, what brings you the most satisfaction. Have a vision for what this next phase will be so you don’t end up exemplifying Yogi Berra’s famous quip: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”
“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
A vision or goal for what you want is necessary but not sufficient. Create a plan, do research about different paths, encore careers, volunteer activities, moving or staying where you are. Talk to others who have chosen different paths so you can learn from their experiences, both positive and negative. Also, be sure to talk to the people who are close to you — spouse/partner, kids, friends — the people whose lives you want to include in your plans. They will be making part or most of this journey with you. Their support and partnership will be invaluable.
Give it time
“The only man who never makes mistakes is the man who never does anything.” — Theodore Roosevelt
This is a new phase of life. Experiment and expect some things will work out wonderfully and other things won’t — both are part of learning how to shape this part of your life. Learn to say no so that other well-meaning people don’t fill up your life with their hopes and agendas, unless of course they match your own. And be open to a mixture of interests, some leisure, some compensated work, some volunteer work, some hobby time. Give the new path some time to jell. It may take a year or more to hit a new cadence.
Retired from his career as a human resources administrator, Brennan has a part-time “encore” as consultant, speaker and writer. He has a master’s degree in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and majored in English and music at Hamilton.
How to pick the perfect wine
The expert: Terry Robards ’61, P’84, wine journalist and merchant
Cheap is cheap
The most important considerations in choosing a wine are (1) the food that will accompany it, (2) your personal tastes: dry, sweet, sparkling, etc. and (3) how much you want to spend. The most common mistake when selecting a wine is buying el cheapo and expecting any satisfaction. Splurge for special occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and holidays.
When in doubt, chose pinot noir
The go-to whites are chardonnay and sauvignon blanc; go-to reds are pinot noir, Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone and Chianti. My favorite is pinot noir because it is the most food-friendly. (Pinot noir includes red Burgundy.) You can pair pinot noir with all red meats, all poultry, pasta and some fully flavored fish like salmon and bluefish. Of course, pinot noir comes in a variety of styles, from light, elegant and lean, to big, rich and concentrated. Experiment to find your favorites.
You are your best critic
Bottom line: Choose whatever you like, because only you know your own tastes. Nobody should tell you what to drink. The best way to experiment is to invite friends to a BYOB tasting and specify the variety, like pinot noir, chardonnay, Italian reds or whatever interests you.
Robards, a French major at Hamilton, has written about wine for The New York Times, Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast and offered commentary on wine for WQXR in New York City. In 2012, he was inducted into the Wine Media Guild — Wine Writer’s Hall of Fame. For the past 25 years, he has owned and operated Terry Robards Wines & Spirits in Lake Placid, N.Y.