Want to save a life? Run a marathon? Brew a great cup of coffee? Make a super cocktail? Choose a good suit? Alumni experts from various walks of life—from the head of an international company to the owner of a Charlottesville garage—provide tips on these and other topics to help make your life more informed, meaningful, creative or just plain fun.

How to choose a good mechanic

Joe Baber (Col ’09) is the owner of Peacock Auto Service in Charlottesville and has been a professional mechanic for 10 years.

Take a look around
Spend a moment to visually inspect the prospective shop. Note the cars located in the parking area. Are they similar in value to yours, or does the parking lot look like a junk yard? Next, peek into the shop area. Is it clean and organized? A lot of information can be garnered by the condition of a work area. Chances are that if the technicians take pride in their work area, they’ll take the same pride in the repair of your vehicle.

Beware of “oil change specials”
Any shop that runs specials or gimmicks does so for a reason—to lure in potential victims. There’s not much of a profit margin on an oil change, so shops offering such specials do so only to get you in the door. Once they have your car on the lift, shops of ill repute will attempt to sell you a bevy of “necessary” repairs and services.

Call ahead to check availability
Good shops are busy shops, and they might not be able to accommodate you right away. If a shop is reputable, honest and does good work, chances are that many others know about it as well. But don’t be deterred if you are in a crunch—good shops also have a way of fitting you in if time is truly an issue.

Find a pressure-free zone
A good shop will take the time to get to know you and your vehicle. The mechanics will suggest appropriate services that will best meet your needs, not just throw a large estimate at you in the hopes that some of it will stick. Don’t let a shop bully you into excessive amounts of preventive maintenance or coerce you with an enormous estimate the first time you walk in the door. Contrary to what they might say, your car will not implode if you don’t purchase the most expensive maintenance package.

Feel free to ask questions
If you don’t understand what is wrong with your car and what needs to be serviced or repaired, don’t be afraid to ask for a comprehensive explanation. Good shops have nothing to hide and won’t mind taking the extra time to make sure you understand exactly what needs to be done to get you back on the road.

How to Get Good Karma

Patty Triplett (Com ’92), Heather Blasch (Col ’91) and Steve Triplett (Com ’89) created Good Karmal, a candy company with a mission to sweeten the world. Good Karmal wraps all-natural caramel in quotations meant to inspire acts of kindness.

Do good and good things will happen
Sanskrit for “action,” karma is the cycle of cause and effect, the manifestation of our own reality through our thoughts and deeds. Simply put, what we do determines what will happen to us. While there are many ways of generating good karma—you could chant or meditate—we are inspired by the Hindu proverb “Help your brother’s boat across, and your own will reach the shore.” When you act with kindness and selfless intent, you plant the seeds and create the space for happiness to grow.

Be the change
Emphasizing the extraordinary power of individual action, Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” By choosing to take positive action and being mindful of our words, thoughts and deeds, we can create good karma. Do something for someone else with no expectation of reward. Make a difference in whatever cause is close to your heart. It needn’t be grand; the action isn’t as important as the thought behind it. Shift out of neutral, ignore the cynics and know that everything we do matters.

Remember that the little things are big
Maya Angelou once reflected, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” We have so many encounters every day. It’s amazing how small, unexpected acts can make a difference: a simple hug, a phone call out of the blue, sharing an umbrella with a rain-soaked stranger or waving a fellow driver into your lane. Be patient with yourself and others and strive to make a conscious choice. Before you react, remember that what you think and do will follow you. The ripple effect of these interactions is exponential.

Be here now
It’s easy to get caught up in the activities and distractions of daily life; it takes focus to slow down and inhabit the moment. So toss the to-do list and make a commitment to be present. Engage with those around you and create beauty every chance you get, for as Joseph Joubert advised, “Poetry is to be found nowhere unless we carry it within us.” Be compassionate, be the unexpected, and above all, inspire one another as you ask yourself, “How am I going to live this day?”

How to Make a Killer Cocktail

Allison Evanow (Col ’86) is the founder and CEO of Square One Organic Spirits, makers of organic vodkas and spirits.

The sweet aromatic scent of basil and other herbs that are prolific in summer usually makes one think of seasonal, market-inspired cuisine. But what about market-inspired cocktails? Instead of looking to the mixer aisle for your next patio party concoction, look to your produce aisle, or better yet, to your local farmer’s market for inspiration.

Here’s how to revive the classic gimlet by using fresh lime juice and muddled basil.

Basil Gimlet
2 oz. Square One Organic - Choice of Original, Cucumber or Botanical Vodka
1 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice
½ oz. organic agave nectar or simple syrup
4 leaves of basil

Tear basil leaves and muddle briefly in a cocktail shaker tin. Pour all other ingredients into shaker and fill with ice. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a basil leaf float.

How to Play the Harmonica

Clay Edwards (Com ’87, Grad ’88) is the president of Hohner Inc., the world’s largest manufacturer of harmonicas.

Holding the harmonica
First, it makes sense to start with a quality harmonica. I’d recommend a professional level model that will allow you to “bend” notes easily. Hold the harmonica with both hands, the right thumb and forefinger around the 10 hole end, and the left thumb at the end by the 1 hole, with the left fingers behind the back of the harmonica. If you flap your fingers back and forth quickly, you’ll learn to make an echo sound, often associated with campfire music.

Breathing, drawing
Playing the harmonica is about breathing in and out, with control, rhythm and precision. The low notes are by hole 1, the highest are by hole 10. Visualize a piano—the higher notes are always to the right. Blowing or drawing on a single hole produces one note. Blowing several holes at once can yield a chord, like the intro to Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.”

6 Blow   7 Blow   7 Blow   7 Blow   8 Blow   8 Draw   7 Blow   8 Draw

Accompanying music
Another way to learn is by accompanying music. Play only one or two notes at a time and stay in rhythm (don’t play faster than the song goes). Less is more, if you play in rhythm and follow the melody up and down. Play along with CDs or YouTube videos, which are a good source of free lessons. Hohner’s site (www.hohnerusa.com) will offer free lessons soon.

Learning to play the harmonica will help you gain an emotional response from people. Playing music soothes the soul and inspires, and the harmonica is an easy place to start.

How to fall in love with opera

David Alan Gibb (Col ’65) is a marketing consultant to professional service firms and nonprofits. He serves on the board of two opera organizations in California.

Many who otherwise enjoy classical music maintain an aversion to opera. Some may have been dragged to a performance when too young, or imagine that language is a barrier, or that opera is for the elite. But much has changed in opera, and it deserves a second chance.

Forget the fat lady
Some hold an outdated image of a fat lady in a Viking helmet bellowing at a rotund tenor in a bad wig. Audience expectations today are increasingly visual as well as aural. In response, companies have updated production values to attract new and younger audience members, engaging imaginative stage directors and designers who use technologies such as rear projection, computer-driven lighting and elaborate stage machinery to enhance the scene.

Think of opera as theater on steroids
Opera theater is the combo platter of the arts. It’s a composite of music, dance, drama, sets, costumes and lighting. When the elements align, the result is great theater. Voice must come first, but acting and production values count.

Don’t worry about languages
No need to understand Italian or French or German or Czech. In fact, no need to strain to comprehend every word even if the opera is performed in English. All major companies in the U.S. run supertitles, capturing the essential dialogue and making the action immediate and readily understandable.

Learn the ABCs
Some intrepid opera neophytes start with contemporary opera, others go Baroque. But there exists a standard repertoire of operas that are done frequently by houses all over the world because novices and committed opera buffs alike recognize them as the greats. Start with the ABCs: Aida, La Bohème and Carmen.

Look for offbeat venues
Like theater, opera can gain immediacy and relevance by being done in the park, the mall or the street. Long Beach Opera (full disclosure: I serve on the board) recently performed The Diary of Anne Frank by Grigori Frid in a parking garage to create the oppressive atmosphere appropriate to the story. Most famously, the company performed Orpheus & Eurydice by Ricky Ian Gordon in a swimming pool representing the river Styx.

How to rent a city apartment

Jennifer Ceaser (Col ’90) is the deputy editor of the Home section of the New York Post and an experienced New York City renter.

Do your research
Figure out where you want to live in a city and if you can afford it. Don’t just look for the cheapest rent; make sure it’s a neighborhood where you’ll feel safe and that fits your personality. Narrow down a handful of areas and check them out during the day and, most importantly, at night. Note how accessible the neighborhood is to public transportation. If you’re into nightlife, see how much a cab will cost to get you home in the wee hours.

Too good to be true?
Craigslist.org is a great resource, but it can also be a waste of time if you don’t know how to separate legitimate listings from suspect ones. The most obvious warning sign is suspiciously low rent—scammers know this is the best way to get you interested. So, if someone asks for money up front and promises a key later, don’t fall for it. Another is the bait and switch, usually used by apartment brokers who tell you the advertised apartment is rented and offer to show you another that ends up being smaller, more expensive, or in a less-desirable neighborhood or crummy building. If you sense that something isn’t quite right, trust your instincts and move on.

To use a broker or not?
In New York and, to a lesser extent, in Boston and Chicago, brokers control much of the city’s apartment inventory. And they get anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of a year’s rent as a one-time fee, which means that if you’re looking at places renting for $2,000 a month, expect to pay a broker around $2,400. (Note: This is in addition to a deposit and first and last month’s rent.) Can’t afford it? Avoid the no- or low-fee services, which charge money to join. You can get their same listings by compiling a list of the buildings you’re interested in and contacting the management companies directly. New rental buildings are usually more open to this tactic. And while the monthly rent may be slightly higher, you’ll avoid paying the broker fee.

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Coffee

Bill Bowron Jr. (Col ’75) is president and CEO of Red Diamond Coffee & Tea in Alabama, one of the three oldest coffee companies in the country, continuously run by the same family.

Start with fresh coffee
Air dries out coffee and, therefore, affects the flavor. Purchase the freshest beans available in airtight packaging or freshly roasted at a local store. Roasting releases the coffee flavor, so it tastes best immediately after roasting. Over the last 100 years, the coffee industry’s packaging methods evolved from glass jars to metal cans to wax-lined bags to vacuum-sealed bags—and now flexible packaging with one-way valves. This transformation has helped the industry deliver the freshest coffee.

Know your beans
Select roasts and blends depending on whether you prefer a mild cup or an intense, full-bodied cup of coffee. Most people prefer 100 percent new-crop, washed, mild Arabica coffee. As the ground-versus-whole-bean debate carries on, keep in mind: Modern packaging provides fresh ground coffee. If you grind whole bean coffee, then brewing should occur as soon as possible after grinding.

Equipment, water
Whether using a drip system or French press, keep your coffee maker clean and free of any hard water deposits or coffee residue that could taint the taste. Use fresh, cold water; if you don’t like your local tap water, use filtered. For each cup of coffee use six ounces of water, adding one level tablespoon of coffee plus one tablespoon “for the pot.”

A properly calibrated coffee maker will brew at around 200 degrees Fahrenheit to extract the most flavor from the grounds. It will take around five minutes to brew properly. If the pot stays on the warming plate for longer than 15 minutes the coffee could become bitter or taste burned.

Drink immediately and repeat as needed.

Use sweetener and creamer to taste, but many people find a fresh, steaming cup of a great coffee need only be followed by a second cup.

How to train for a marathon

Nicole Kelleher (Med ’12) is a professional triathlete and former NCAA Division I assistant cross-country coach and standout cross-country/track athlete.

Get a plan
So you have decided to run a marathon. No idea how to get ready? The good news is that there are many training programs geared toward beginners and first-time marathoners. Following a program will help you avoid injury and give you confidence. You can get a program from Runners World online for less than $30, or you can choose from a variety of free programs available online. Your local running shop is also a great resource for a training program. Some offer classes for marathon training at all levels.

The 10 percent rule
The age-old rule of running is the 10 percent rule. You should never increase your total weekly mileage by more than 10 percent per week. Following this rule will help you avoid injury as well as help your body transition gradually (and less painfully) to longer distances. You will have to give yourself plenty of time to prepare for your marathon. Most training schedules are intended to start 16-20 weeks before your marathon goal.

The shoe factor
Using the appropriate shoe is essential to injury-free training. There are three general categories of running shoes: cushion, stability and motion control. These categories differ in how much motion the shoe allows the foot to have when it is planted. Everyone has a unique gait that determines which of these shoes they should use. Running in the wrong shoe can result in injury. The best way to ensure that you are in the correct shoe is to visit your local running specialty shop. The employees should be trained to analyze your gait and help you find the right shoe for your foot.

For the advanced runner
If you are hoping to run faster marathons, integrate speed training into your preparation. Along with your long runs and tempo-paced runs on the road, you also want to get to the track about once every two weeks. At the track, you should do intervals faster than race pace at distances as short as one mile. Try this workout: Do nine to 12 repetitions of one mile at five seconds per mile faster than your target race pace, with one minute’s rest between intervals. Do this workout no later than three to four weeks before your race.

How to Make People Look Great in Photos

Robert T. Jones Jr. (Engr ’01) is a wedding and portrait photographer and owner of Towner Jones Photography in Gainesville, Va.

A subject’s confidence in front of the camera should be your highest priority. There isn’t a high-end camera or fancy light that will fix a picture of someone who is uncomfortable. Pump up your subject. Everyone can take a good picture when they relax enough to be open with the camera.

Be hands-on
Great photographers discovered this trick years ago, and I’ve found it always works: After asking permission, walk up to the model and put your hands on him or her, whether there’s something to be adjusted or not. Move their chin or their shoulders. It helps the subject relax and establishes a connection between photographer and subject. It shows in the photos.

Check the angles
When positioning a subject, keep in mind the angle of the shoulders relative to the camera. Instead of positioning with the shoulders perpendicular to the camera, slightly angle the body to either side. This provides depth to the photo and has a slimming effect on the subject. In addition, shooting from a slightly elevated position provides a more natural look than shooting from below.

Frame creatively
One of the best ways to add character to a portrait is by creative framing. Instead of placing the subject in the center of the camera’s frame, experiment by moving the subject to the left or right of center or zooming in tight.

Capture different emotions
Don’t always make them smile. Though we all enjoy a good laugh, sometimes capturing life’s other emotions makes for memorable photographs. Don’t be afraid to ask your subject to be pensive, distant or determined, as well as excited, surprised or happy.

Work fast
Keep it short and sweet. You have between five and 10 minutes of shooting before your subject is going to start getting tired. A 2-year-old who’s been dragged in front of your lens will get cranky fast. Get photos in a few different poses—best to have these in mind in advance—and get a generous number of images of each, but keep it quick.

When you’ve established a good rapport with your model, by all means have some fun. Real smiles and candid moments are best captured when people are enjoying themselves.

Visit Towner Jones Photography’s website or pick up more helpful tips on their blog.

How to buy a suit

Colin P.G. Hunter (Col ’04), C. Peyton Jenkins (Col ’04) and Mana Anandsongkit (Col ’08) are co-founders of Alton Lane, a clothing company that offers luxury custom-made menswear.

Build your wardrobe
First, determine what you have and what you need. Build your wardrobe around a solid foundation of versatile, well-made suits and then expand based on your personal style and work demands. Typically, the first four suits in a man’s closet will include a solid navy, solid charcoal, navy pinstripe and a charcoal pinstripe. These four classic patterns will cover you in almost any situation and provide a good mix of tradition and style. Once you have the basics, you can begin to expand your wardrobe based on your needs and personal preference. For a more modern, stylish look: a colorful pinstripe or a sleek bird’s-eye fabric. For a traditional look: a subtle windowpane or a classic charcoal herringbone. Finally, add a light linen or cotton suit to your wardrobe for summer weddings and cocktail parties.

Accentuate your figure
A properly fitted suit should flatter your figure, making you look sharp and relevant. It’s most important that your suit look proportionate to your body. Tall, lean frames should look for a tapered jacket with narrow pants, while more athletic builds should consider a moderate taper throughout the suit. Shortening the length of your jacket, as well as a lower button placement, will add the appearance of height to smaller frames.

Selecting options
The details of your suit will have an impact on the overall look and should be selected based on your personal tastes and work environment. In more conservative office environments, consider a standard notched lapel, center vent, pleated pants and cuffs. If your office culture supports a more modern look, you can opt for a thinner lapel, ticket pocket, side vents and flat-front pants.

Personalized touches
There are a few ways to personalize a suit to make it your own. Choosing a fun, colorful lining is a great way to express personality while remaining formal to outside observers. Also, consider adding a monogram on the wool inside your jacket or a different color stitching to each sleeve’s last buttonhole or the lapel’s flower hole. These small touches can brighten a dark suit and make your garment uniquely yours.

How to get into graduate school

Richard Bahar (Col ’00) is founder of Jefferson Prep, a national tutoring, exam prep and language preparation company.

Faced with a prolonged recession and a stagnant job market, more students are turning to graduate school to make themselves more marketable in the workplace, and to bide their time as they await an economic recovery. How can you increase your chances of admission in a climate that is more competitive than ever?

Establish an application theme
Make your application as memorable as possible. Avoid a stale, instantly forgettable list of accomplishments. Instead, establish an interesting theme that pervades your entire application. In particular, use your personal statement to amplify this theme and to convince an admissions officer that you’d be a fascinating member of the incoming class. For example, if you’re applying to medical school and want to demonstrate your commitment to health care, tailor your personal statement, letters of recommendation, and interview to highlight a lifetime desire to become a physician.

Before submitting your final application, ask someone to review it in under five minutes. If they can come away with a strong, memorable impression, you know you’ve done your best.

With standardized exams, focus on substantive study
Most students mistakenly think that they can prepare for the LSAT, GRE, GMAT or MCAT in just a few weeks. On the contrary, these exams require nonintensive, substantive study. If you’re in your mid-20s and planning to take the GRE or GMAT, it’s safe to assume that you remember close to nothing from high school algebra or geometry. And yet the quantitative portions of these exams present challenging, advanced level math questions. Give yourself several months to slowly review the concepts that you’ve forgotten, concepts that took you years to learn in the first place.

How to Dress Boho

Courtney Kampa (Col ’10) has been a model, fashion adviser and writer for Seventeen Magazine.

So you wanna be boho. You’ve stared, envious but mystified, at those colorful, rumpled outfits. You’ve even staked out trendy coffee shops to pick up tips. You, too, wish to make an effortless spectacle of yourself but are unsure how.

Let go
Step one is to stop taking yourself so seriously. In wandering out into the world as wrinkled and tousled as this genre demands, a certain amount of dignity, even self-respect, must first be surrendered. So take risks—if you look a little silly, it all gets written off as intentional. Wear the occasional blanket for a coat. Twist up your hair with a pen. Put your house key on a rubber band and wear it as a bracelet. And dish towels? Perfect head scarves.

Aim for inexpensive
Join the fashionably poor, frequenting consignment shops, flea markets, vintage boutiques or your mother’s attic. Consider the jewelry of the past. It offers a cheap, timeless, thoroughly boho alternative to wearing what everyone else wears, and is an ideal way to weather the tough economy. Check out stores like the Salvation Army or Goodwill, which frequently house absolute gems.

Avoid trends
Part of boho’s appeal is that no two looks should ever be the same. A common, yet fatal, mistake is to fall into the genre marked “hipster.” Avoid anything given this label as though it were the plague. While the mission of the average bohemian is freedom, hipsters are defined by restriction, whether through oxygen-sucking skinny jeans, or their crippling sense of irony.

Boho: a state of mind
Rather than a definitive set of rules, it’s most important to embrace the deep humanity of dishevelment. City grit, wrinkled fabrics— appreciate a style of minimal upkeep. Develop a flair for melodrama. Bohemian clothing should be the evidence of a great romantic soul, preoccupied with art, love and metaphysics. Boho ultimately amounts to attitude. The clothing should suggest you spent the morning making art rather than wrestling your pants on with a shoehorn. Wear a genuine (yet slightly distracted) smile. Carry a steaming espresso without the Starbucks decal. Above all, be yourself—interpretation is key. The big secret about boho rules is that there are none.

How to Save a Life in the Wilderness

Matthew Rosefsky (Grad ’03, GSBA ’03) is general manager of the Outdoor Adventure Social Club of Greater Charlottesville and a wilderness medicine instructor for Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities.

Step-by-step rescue recipe
We think of “wilderness” as a place of tranquility to which we escape. But the dangers of being in wilderness can also be thrust upon us due to natural disaster or terrorism. Ever been among the first to arrive at a crash or injury scene, desperately wanting to help out but having no idea what to do?

What happened?

  • First, size up the scene. Is it safe? Is the patient in imminent danger, such as from falling objects, or bikes coming blindly around the bend, such that immediate evacuation or blocking off a hiking trail is in order?
  • Second, as you approach the patient but before you arrive, form a general impression. What happened? What appear to be the major concerns? Might the patient be at risk of spinal cord injury? If yes, ensure that the patient does not move, especially his or her head—including nods of “yes” or “no.”
  • Third, protect yourself from others’ body fluids. Carry and use medical gloves.
  • Fourth, briefly communicate with the patient as you approach. How responsive is he or she? What happened? Does he want your help? What is his chief complaint?

Go through the ABCDEs
Run through the ABCDEs of life-threatening conditions—in strict order of fastest killers first—immediately treating any problems you discover along the way.

  • Airway: Open the patient’s mouth, check for and remove solid or drain liquid blockages.
  • Breathing: Look, listen and feel for breathing rate and quality. Assist inadequate breaths using a CPR face shield or slow down rapid breathing (get the patient’s attention, breathe with him or her and slow the pace of breathing).
  • Circulation: Check for a pulse at an extremity, then closer in if none is found. Perform CPR if appropriate. Check for and stop any major bleeds.
  • Deformity or disability: Check for broken bones. Check nervous system functionality by addressing these questions: Can the patient move feet and squeeze hands, evenly? Can he or she feel which toe or finger you’re pinching?
  • Environment: Get the patient out of the sun, off the cold ground, out of the rain and keep him warm.

For information on upcoming wilderness first aid classes or to have a course scheduled, visit www.outdoorsocial.com/wfa.htm or call 434-760-HIKE (4453).

How to create a mobile app

Jackie Magher Ashton (Com ’98) and Jay Ashton (GSBA ’02) created Baby Brain, the iPhone app for parents. Forbes named Baby Brain the best cool gadget for new moms.

Fill a need
Mobile apps abound these days, but the possibility for new apps is limitless. Think of something that could be made more efficient and fun using your app. Come up with something that no one else is doing, or that no one is doing well. We created Baby Brain to do something moms had traditionally done using paper and pencil—tracking their baby’s eating and sleeping habits during those early days. The iPhone came out the week before our first child was born. We wanted an app with Baby Brain’s functionality, but it didn’t exist—so we created it.

Do the research
Research other apps to see what is out there. Did someone already create “your” app? If so,  can you do it better? If there are some competitive apps out there, read their reviews carefully and find out what improvements users want so that you can create a better app.

Find a good developer and strike a good deal
Find an experienced developer that is invested in your idea. Developers are not cheap, and the price per download is low, so you need to be smart about your development costs. We researched development teams that had created successful apps previously for brand name businesses. We were then able to strike a creative revenue-sharing deal with them that lowered our upfront costs significantly. It also motivated the development team to have a vested interest in the overall success of our app.

Test, re-test and test again
The last thing you want is a user who excitedly uses your app for the first time, only to find it immediately crash. Include testing and updates as a part of your contract with your developers so that they are required to make fixes and updates to the app. Think about how your users will be using the app, then test again and again until you are sure there are no problems.

Market your app
App stores are cluttered, and navigating them is difficult. For your app to be successful, you need to market it yourself. Create a website and make it easy for users to contact you. Write a blog about your launch. Reach out to bloggers in the relevant industries and tell them about your app. When you find users who love your app, don’t be shy about asking them to share their thoughts in a review. Post all of your press links to Facebook, Twitter and your website.

Offer great customer support
Users can and will get frustrated using your app, even when it is working just as it should. People just want to be heard and to have their frustrations validated. Respond immediately to customer requests and concerns and stay in close contact with your users.

How to Plan an Event for 30,000 People

Pam Higgins (Col ’78) is director of major events for the University and is responsible for the overall planning of events such as Finals Weekend.

Create a working group
Collaboration, communication and organization are keys to a successful event, whether it is for 30 people or for one with more than 30,000 attendees. Establish a core working group of people involved in the logistics, including vendors and in-house service departments. These can include catering, parking and transportation, rental equipment companies, safety/security (crowd control), media relations, printing, and representatives from the various venues to be used.

Develop plans
Because there are so many details involved, develop written guidelines with the set-up requirements (including diagrams).  The guidelines should include the tasks assigned to each member of the working group.  The more you document, the less chance there is for error.

Space reservations
Take into consideration the anticipated crowd size and the nature of the event when considering venues. Reserve the spaces as soon as possible.

Get the word out
Develop a website with the schedule of events and details on parking, shuttle buses, information booth locations, food availability, ticket information, services for persons with disabilities, lodging options, etc.  Notify attendees via e-mail and/or postcards of the website.  Also, develop a mobile website—they’re very useful for last-minute weather updates.  The week of the event, distribute shuttle bus routes, maps of the event site and key information to local hotels.

Parking and transportation
Determine parking locations and arrange for shuttle buses.  Take into consideration the attendees’ familiarity with the area and determine what signs you’ll need to direct guests to parking and to the event.

Prepare for all weather conditions
For an outdoor event, develop an inclement weather plan.  Even if the weather is nice, some guests might prefer to watch the event in a climate-controlled atmosphere.  If possible, broadcast the event live to remote viewing locations.  If the weather is questionable on the day of the event, develop a plan for notifying attendees of the weather plan to be followed.  As soon as the weather decision is made, post the information on the event website (regular and mobile), update the event information line and notify local media outlets.

Be flexible
On the actual day of event, be flexible!  With planning, you should lessen the chance of last-minute surprises. Despite all your precautions, expect the unexpected. And after the event is over, have a debriefing to identify the things that worked well—as well as things that need improvement.

How to Fit In When You’re Out of Your Element

Gina Welch (Col ’04) is author of In the Land of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey Into the Heart of the Evangelical Church

Ever find yourself in a situation where you feel out of place? Whether you have just moved to the other side of the country or started a new job, these tips will help you not only fit in but connect with people that are different from you. I had to learn how to fit in fast when I, a Jewish woman from Berkeley, Calif., went to Lynchburg, Va., to write a book about Evangelical Christians.

You don’t have to look like everyone else
When I started undercover at Thomas Road Baptist Church, I thought fitting in meant finding a costume that would make me blend. I bought khakis that inspired loathing when I saw them swaying in my closet. There’s a huge authenticity problem in altering your appearance, of course, but in a more practical sense it’s hard to connect with anybody if you’re caught up worrying that your pants are bunching weirdly or your shoes look like hooves. Wear something you feel good in.

Notice what other people are enjoying and try to access its pleasures yourself
When we’re out of our element, it’s really easy to retract the pleasure receptors we keep extended when we’re comfortable. But finding out what other people enjoy (acid jazz, chicken livers, Dancing With the Stars) and going beyond trying it to finding out what’s so good about it helps us connect to people who are different from us. It also demonstrates openness.

When you talk about yourself, solicit advice; when you listen to others, ask for detail
There’s deep irony in the way I learned this lesson: I misrepresented myself to get closer to evangelicals, but now I find the more open I am about myself the easier it is to get along with them. Asking their advice both yields interesting conversation and shows, I think, respect for their opinions. And when you’re trying to understand someone, getting them to talk in detail about their reality makes it so much more relatable.

Take everyone seriously
This doesn’t mean you have to death grip them with a hard gaze, it just means that you treat everyone as a valid person with a working brain, struggles of their own, and, most likely, good intentions.

Don’t be afraid to disagree, but do it with a sense of humor, and without heat
There’s no quicker way to wall yourself off than buttoning your lip when something bothers you. You’ll feel the discomfort of the moment folded up inside, and talking naturally about anything else will require an act of Jedi-level psychological transcendence. If someone says something you disagree with, wait for them to finish speaking, explain your opinion using “I” statements and eye contact, and then listen to their response patiently. Meaning, don’t just wait your turn to speak again—consider the merits of what they have to say. Try to control eye rolling.

How to create a Safe Sleep Setting for Your Infant

Jonathan Midgett (Col ’92, Educ ’94) is an engineering psychologist with the Office of Hazard Identification and Reduction of the US Consumer Product Safety Commission, where he uses his knowledge of child development to help regulate children’s products.

Caring for a newborn is not rocket science: very little equipment is absolutely essential. Just the same, when new parents start shopping for baby gear, they can be quickly overloaded with the volume of choices. Learn how to minimize risks in your baby’s sleep setting, no matter what sleep product you choose for your baby.

Place infant(s) to sleep on their backs
This simple rule is associated with a dramatic decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Use a firm, tight-fitting mattress
If you can fit more than two fingers between the edge of the mattress and crib side, the mattress is too small. An infant can suffocate if its head or body becomes wedged between the mattress and the crib sides.

Never use extra padding, blankets or pillows under your baby
You may think that the crib or bassinet mattress that came with your baby gear seems too hard. You wouldn’t want to sleep on it. But the truth is that infants cannot maintain open airways on the soft, pillowy surfaces that adults prefer to sleep on. Resist the urge to place extra padding under your infant—your old bones may need extra padding to sleep well, but infants don’t need it.

Remove pillows or thick comforters
Decorative pillows and comforters look nice in a nursery, but they can be obstacles in a crib or bassinet, actually pinning a child in a bad position or becoming a suffocation hazard if the child squirms about during the night.

Positioning devices are not necessary
No research supports using sleep positioners, and if children slip off them or flip out of them they can become trapped between the positioner and the side of their crib or bassinet.

Regularly check gear
Any broken parts on your child’s sleeping gear can be deadly. Check the fit and tightness of fasteners and any adjustable parts of your crib or bassinet to ensure that no gaps may open up when a child wriggles while sleeping.

Do not try to fix a broken crib or bassinet
Many fatal incidents are associated with repaired cribs or bassinets. Throw them away or get exact replacement parts from the manufacturer.

Place cribs or bassinets away from windows
Children can quietly explore their environment during the night, reaching through the crib slats to pull cords and curtains into their crib.

No strings or cords
Never use strings to hang any object, such as a mobile, on or near the crib where a child could become caught in it. If you have toys with cords or elastic for hanging, cut the strings or cords off. Never tie pacifiers around your child’s neck. Remove bibs and necklaces whenever you put your baby to sleep.

Avoid cribs more than 20 years old
Many older, unsafe cribs do not meet safety standards and may lead to entrapment or strangulation. Destroy all cribs with:

  • Slat spacing greater than 60 mm (2 3/8 inches). Infants might pass through gaps generated between wide slat openings and becomes entrapped at the neck.
  • Headboard designs that have decorative cutouts that may allow an infant’s head to become caught in the openings.
  • Corner posts that extend more than 1.5mm (1/16 inch) above the top of the end panel. Children have died when items or clothing around their necks caught on corner posts.

Avoid makeshift and adult bedding
Never place your infant to sleep on an inflatable mattress. Also, never place your infant to sleep in an adult bed, waterbed or bunk bed.

A warning about bedsharing:
Many parents choose to sleep with their infants to facilitate breastfeeding and bonding. Be aware of the many risks associated with bedsharing and, if you choose to accept those risks for your family, strictly follow the rules outlined by expert proponents of bedsharing. Overlay deaths are real and more common than you think.

When to stop using a crib:
When your child reaches 35 inches (890 mm) in height, or can climb out of the crib, he/she has outgrown the crib and should no longer sleep in it. Placing the crib mattress on the floor is a common and safe solution until the child gets a bed.

Avoid hazardous toys and sheets
Crib gyms and other toys that stretch across the crib with strings, cords or ribbons can be a hazard for older or more active babies.

Sheets also can be hazardous, so make sure they fit snugly and overlap the mattress at least 2 inches. Never use an adult sheet on a crib mattress; it can become loose and entangle an infant.

How to avoid trouble on social networks

Robin Fray Carey (Col ’76) is co-founder and CEO of Social Media Today, a company that helps corporate clients harness the power of social media.

The fail safe method: Unplug your router, rip out your modem and don’t go there.

The notion that many social media evangelists have that somehow the virtual world is an improvement on the actual one is as misplaced as the notion that mid-century urban planners had about gleaming high-rises replacing scruffy tenements.  People bring their bad moods, psychotic tendencies and sloppy habits online with them.  So beware.  As in real life, the more you are online the more likely you will run into trouble.

I suppose it might make sense to define trouble in this context.  I’m not sure that virtual trouble isn’t a bit like what my mother told me about “sticks and stones.”  But the degree to which you expose yourself to a trouble-maker through your online activity defines what a social network can do to hurt you. That’s one of the reasons I avoid geo-social platforms, which transmits information about your location, often in real time.

Here are some practical tips minimizing your risk while social networking.

  • Scrutinize those facebook privacy settings, which are being updated all the time.  Make sure you are using the most restrictive versions of your public profile.
  • Always tell the truth.
  • If you are blogging, or into creating controversial status updates, respond to unfavorable comments right away.
  • Employ humor as your best defense against attack.
  • If you are using LinkedIn, avoid offering up a personal e-mail account or mobile number.
  • Register your (most specific) name as a URL so that someone else won’t hijack it.