Ever wonder how to escape from a straitjacket? Or uncork a bottle of champagne with panache? Or do you just need a little boost reaching the next rung on your career ladder? We thought so. We did the hard work of collecting—from Drew faculty, staff and alumni—all you need to know to glide through life.
By Christopher Hann – Illustration by Leigh Wells
Spend a great day in Paris
Professor of French and chair, Department of French and Italian
For time travelers: Musée de la Vie Romantique, the former home of the Dutch-born painter Ary Scheffer (1795–1858), which reflects Parisian life during the Romantic period, when Scheffer played host to the likes of Chopin, Delacroix and George Sand.
For contemporary art lovers: Le 104, or CentQuatre, a massive new museum (104 Rue d’Aubervilliers) exhibiting a head-spinning array of art forms. “It emphasizes the importance of making visible the process in which art is produced.”
For fans of open-air markets: Marché Biologique des Batignolles on the Boulevard des Batignolles. “Everyone wants to communicate important information about the vegetables they’re selling, the modes of production, the quality of the asparagus.”
For devotees of decadent pastry: The legendary Pâtisserie Stohrer, founded in 1730 by Nicolas Stohrer, a pastry chef for Louis XV. Pieretti recommends the Baba au Rhum, a yeast cake (sometimes filled with fruit) soaked in rum.
For those who come alive at night: Rue Oberkampf, in the 11th arrondissement, a street filled with bistros. “That’s where the new things are happening.” For something a little more elegant, try Café Chic, in the eighth arrondissement.
For café denizens: Pieretti prefers not to cite a single café. Instead, “just get to know one near where you’re staying and get the local flavor.”
Eat the Baba au Rhum.
Be a locavore
Kim Peavey T’97
Owner, Hillside Springs Farm
Community-supported agriculture, or CSA, generally refers to small farms that sell memberships to locals who, during the growing season, receive regular supplies of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and whatever else the farm produces. To Kim Peavey, who grows vegetables, herbs, berries and flowers on about five acres of her 53-acre spread, one of the keys to enjoying a CSA farm is understanding the seasonal nature of its crops.
Take sugar snap peas. “People have to know they’re only around for a four-week season,” Peavey says. The challenge, she says, is getting people to taste food that’s grown naturally and in season so they know what it’s supposed to taste like. Just think of the difference between a fresh strawberry picked in the middle of June versus that overgrown yet utterly flavorless berry you find in the supermarket in January. Also, food grown naturally on a small farm will inevitably bear some imperfections. Get over it. “It’s not just about appearance,” Peavey says. “It’s about good taste.”
Ginny Samuel T’75
Professor, Theological School
Samuel teaches a popular elective in the Theo School titled “The Landscape of Loss: Pastoral Care in Situations of Death, Dying and Grief.” It’s a subject she has some experience with. She spent four years as a hospice chaplain, counseling terminally ill patients through their final days. And she confronted her own mortality when, as a 40-year-old mother of two boys, ages 3 and 7, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I made a conscious decision that I would live my life without regrets,” Samuel says. “To do what I want to do, be faithful in my relationships to people, to be kind, all those things that mean something to me.”
Sounds like the secret to dying well is living well.
“You bet,” she says. “Living authentically will, I believe, usher in a dying-well experience.”
So what does dying well look like? Samuel believes dying in peace is the good death.
“I’ve seen people die in peace,” she says. “Peace looks like, ‘I accept this, I’m not fighting it. I trust that there’s something beyond here, that God will be waiting for me on the other side.’”
Communicate with alien worlds
Assistant professor of physics
Murawski, who taught a college seminar last fall called “The Physics of Science Fiction,” prophesies that radio signals represent our best chance. “Radio will travel through space unencumbered,” he says, “and it travels at the speed of light. Since we’ve been broadcasting radio transmissions for the past 60 years, it’s conceivable that a planet that’s light years away from us could pick this up and listen to us.”
For years, Murawski says, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute, based at the University of California at Berkeley, has been searching for radio waves emanating from some as-yet-undiscovered planet.
“The nearest star from us is 4.2 light years away,” he says. “That means that radio waves traveling at the speed of light would take 4.2 years to get there. If we wanted to communicate with them, the whole transmission would take 8.4 years. But that’s what this group does. They scan the heavens.”
Live your own best life
James Hollis G’67
Jungian analyst, author of Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life
“The second half of life is not so much a chronological event but a psychological encounter. It begins when you ask what are the forces driving you.
“The recovery of personal authority is the central task of the second half of life. Namely, what is true for me, and do I have the courage to live that truth in the world? We all have so much traffic in our heads that discerning our voice from the many we’ve internalized is a lifelong process. This constitutes an invitation to a deepened conversation about the meaning of our own journeys.
“Secondly, we are invited to pay more attention to the promptings of our feeling functions, our energy systems and our dreams. All of these are autonomous expressions of the psyche’s intent. But we’ve learned to override them in the first half of life.
“In the end, we want to have experienced two things. Namely, that we lived our life and not someone else’s, and that we stood in relationship to transcendent values. Those values will vary from person to person. For some, it will be found in nature. For some, through relationships. For some, through the work of hands. For some, through the life of the mind. Each of us has a different path through the dark wood.”
Find a job in this stinking economy
Director, Center for Career Development
Crabbe’s office serves mostly current students, but these days she’s seeing more alumni returning to the center to seek help with their next career move. “The economy has shaken up everybody,” she says, “so everybody is looking to redefine themselves.”
Alumni who have lost their job, fear losing their job or find themselves mired in an industry slithering down the toilet would do well to seek the center’s help. Crabbe says freshening up a dusty résumé is often a good first step. The center will not rewrite your résumé, but it will offer helpful advice. “If an alum has been out there for 10 years or more, it’s a more complicated process because the résumé is more complicated,” she says. “Sometimes what’s needed, truthfully, is a complete overhaul.”
Last year Crabbe started a series of job-search workshops (two each semester) strictly for alumni. Recent workshops have focused on interviewing techniques and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, a questionnaire widely used to guide job seekers to career options that fit their personality. “It gives you a sense of your natural talents and gifts and, knowing what they are, how to use them in the best ways for your career,” Crabbe says.
Just about any job search will involve networking, perhaps the most successful job-search technique ever invented. Crabbe says she’s been working with Drew’s Alumni House to build a network of alumni mentors to help fellow Drewids find their dream jobs. She also suggests that anyone looking to move up or move on join professional organizations and attend conferences. And she’s a big fan of LinkedIn (linkedin.com), the online networking program.
Today’s job market, Crabbe says, has only made networking more important than ever. It really is who you know.
It really is who you know.
Get out of a straitjacket
Cliff Gerstman C’83
High school physics teacher by day, magician by night
A modern-day Houdini, Gerstman has earned a reputation for his ability to extract his upper torso from the snug confines of a straitjacket (he’s even done so while aboard an aircraft at zero gravity). No doubt such a maneuver has obvious benefits.
Gerstman agreed to provide step-by-step instructions, but be warned: He insisted on keeping certain trade secrets—in his words, “deeper secrets”—close to the vest.
Disclaimer notwithstanding, here goes:
- First, bring your arms up and over your head. If the jacket is put on correctly, this is not as easy as it sounds. A tight straitjacket pins your arms tightly to your body, so lifting your arms takes a great deal of strength and leverage. The strap that holds your arms to your sides goes around your back, so lifting your arms over your head should cause the strap to come loose. Done properly, your arms will end up in front of you and, though still strapped together, will now be about 18 inches apart, allowing you to perform the next move.
- Reach around your back to undo the neck and crotch straps. Again, this is not as easy as it might seem, as your hands are gloved in thick canvas. Articulating with your fingers is all but impossible. Maneuvering through the canvas is just a matter of developing a sense of touch and pressure, so you can sense what you are doing. All the fine motor work is done behind the back.
- Lastly, pull the jacket up over your head and off. This maneuver has been known to take some skin off with the jacket, as the heavy canvas drags on your arms and face.
Do not try this at home.
Find more college financial aid
Director of financial assistance
First the bad news: Volak says the popular notion that a secret stash of financial aid lurks somewhere in the shadows is something of an urban myth.
Now the good news: Federal and state governments remain the two largest lenders to students, and New Jersey, through the Higher Education Student Assistance Authority, offers one of the most generous aid programs of any state. All students applying for government aid of any kind need to fill out what’s known as the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, at fafsa.ed.gov.
Beyond that, Volak says students should cast a wide net. They should have their parents check into aid programs available through their employers. They should check with their churches, mosques or synagogues. And they should visit fastweb.com, a clearinghouse for financial aid opportunities.
Finally, Volak says, review financial aid packages carefully, even if your child gets one from Drew. “If you want more information about why you got what you got, ask questions,” she says. “We don’t renegotiate packages. But if there are circumstances we’re not aware of, we need to know because it may impact how much financial aid you get.”
Sniff out bad data in the media
Associate professor, math and computer science
How can you discern the truth from surveys that may or may not be legit? Abramowitz tries to wade through the firehose of data unleashed daily on consumers of media in a seminar titled—what else?—“Four Out of Five Drew Students Recommend This Seminar.” Consider these factors, she says, when trying to decide whether to believe what you’re reading.
Research design: Were the researchers truly independent? If Abramowitz reads a survey about breakfast cereal, she wants to know whether the cereal industry paid for it. “I’m really looking for conflicts of interest,” she says.
Measurement: Which concepts were truly under study? As Abramowitz says, “It’s all about how the questions are asked.”
Data analysis: “The biggest issue is going to be people reporting either the mean or the median to try and mislead you,” Abramowitz says. She recalls a newspaper story that reported the typical wedding cost $30,000. But the story relied on a survey that used the mean (or average) wedding cost, which meant that million-dollar weddings skewed the final figure. Using instead the median (the middle point in a list of numbers), the typical wedding came out to $15,000.
Data reporting and farfetched conclusions: Beware of conclusions derived from faulty leaps of logic. Abramowitz’s current favorite target is a national campaign to encourage families to eat dinner together. So far, so good. But the campaign claims that kids who eat dinner with their families are less likely to have drug or alcohol problems. That may well be, but it doesn’t mean that the family dinner plays a direct role in a kid’s ability to avoid a life of addiction. In Abramowitz’s world, that’s known as drawing a causal conclusion from a correlation. And that’s not good.
Keep the planet in balance
Professor of biology and director, environmental studies and sustainability program
A surprising number of seemingly innocent plants and trees can spread out from backyard gardens and wreak havoc with nature.
Here are a few examples of what happens when non-native, invasive species are allowed to flourish: Norway maple trees invade undisturbed forests and suppress diversity in a hostile takeover; purple loosestrife, a lovely flower that blooms all summer, damages bird habitats in wetlands; and oriental bittersweet and wisteria vines clear-cut the forest by literally choking trees to death.
All of these and more are freely sold at most garden centers, so beware. Before buying new shrubs or trees, check lists of invaders provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (usda.gov), the National Park Service (nps.gov) and state native plant societies. By taking the time to choose native plants, trees, shrubs and wildflowers, you’ll help restore the entire ecosystem, from butterflies to nutrient cycles.
Think like a Middle Easterner
Professor of economics and acting chair, Department of Economics and Business Studies
Colton has focused her professional life on economic conditions in the Middle East, where she has traveled extensively. Here are ways to view U.S. policy from the perspective of those living in what is a far more diverse region than commonly understood.
- “There were a lot of expectations with the election of Obama as president. He made the trip to Egypt. He offered up a much more tolerant foreign policy toward the Middle East. But the feeling on the Arab street is it’s all the same, it doesn’t matter who we elect because various interests in the United States will always dominate the discourse. There’s a sense of being let down, a sense of betrayal.”
- “We also need to play a more honest broker in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. I do believe U.S. foreign policy will always get back to the Arab-Israeli conflict. The vast majority of people who live in the Middle East are just as perplexed and unhappy about organizations such as al Qaeda. It’s not our going after these organizations that disturbs people. It’s the lack of any kind of resolution on the Arab-Israeli front.”
- “At the end of the day, people in the Arab world would like to have democracy. I think they often suffer under regimes that are very oppressive, that use the language of combating terrorism to suppress them. A case in point is Yemen.”
Uncork champagne with style
Jason Tesauro C’93
Co-author, The Modern Gentleman: A Guide to Essential Manners, Savvy and Vice
Tesauro fancies himself as something of a modern-day James Bond, minus the gadgetry, and among his enviable talents is the ability to properly saber a champagne bottle—that is, to remove the cork simultaneous with a thin ring of glass from the bottle’s neck—a practice whose origins Tesauro traces to Napoleon’s cavalry. “I think it’s great that gentlemen have a new wrinkle to add to their repertoire of woo,” he says.
Tesauro recommends using the dull side of a large, heavy knife, although he has sabered with an iron file, a spatula, a tire iron, a lawnmower blade and an 1862 Confederate sword. This step-by-step guide will surely make you the hit of your next party, so woo on:
- Start with a cold bottle of champagne. As the temperature goes up, so does the pressure. The warmer the bottle, the greater the chance it will explode in your face. Not smooth.
- Remove the foil, leaving the neck bare, then remove the wire cage.
- Find the seam of the bottle and follow it to where the seam meets the lower lip of the bottle. This is called the annulus, and it’s your target area for sabering.
- Lay the blade flat on the belly of the bottle, as if you’re about to whittle a hickory stick. Pressing firmly, slide the blade up the seam in one clean, fast motion, following the contour of the bottle up to the annulus. Tesauro likens it to a sharp break of the rack in pool. “It’s not how hard you hit the annulus,” he says. “But you’ve got to have some precision.”
- For maximum effect, end with your sabering arm fully extended (and, presumably, still clutching your saber tool of choice).
Freelance writer Christopher Hann now sabers at parties on request.