Thursday, May 5, 2016

10 Simple Solutions to Better Hand Hygiene

Did you know today, May 5th, is World Hand Hygiene Day?

The World Health Organization (WHO) is the force behind an awareness campaign to make sure we're all practicing responsible hand hygiene. It just so happens that this week, through our ForeEdge imprint, we've also released The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World, by Miryam Z. Wahrman—yes, a handbook to understanding the critical importance of maintaining clean hands in your daily life, with advice on best hand hygiene practices.

So what better time to share some of Wahrman's helpful tips? And some may seem like common sense, but often the most obvious are the easiest habits to break. Here are ten things you can and should be doing to keep those hands clean and yourself and others germ-free:

1. Don’t shake hands, do the fist bump. If you do shake hands, be sure to wash up or use alcohol-based hand rub before touching your face or eating.

2. Keep your washing-up areas stocked with plenty of soap and clean cloth towels or paper towels. This is equally as important at home as it is at work.

3. Always keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand rub handy, at work or on the road.

4. If you are a parent of small children, or a caretaker for a family member, keep your charge’s hands clean.

5. Teach your children from the earliest ages to keep their hands clean, in particular, to wash after coming home from school, the playground, or other activities, and before eating.

6. If you are a supervisor at work, develop and encourage hygiene policies for your employees. Your initiative may be as modest or subtle as making sure there is soap and paper towels in the bathrooms and hand rub available in the office.

7. If you work in health care, be vigilant about hand hygiene, cooperate with hygiene policies, and take the initiative to be a role model for others.

8. According to the WHO, 61% of health workers do not clean their hands at right moment. So if you are a patient, politely ask your health worker to wash hands and don gloves. If you are advocating for a family member who is being treated, you should do the same. This is not the time to be bashful or worry about insulting someone.

9. If possible, when buying prepared food, be aware of how your food is handled and ask the food handler to wash hands or don gloves.

10. Learn about local health codes, and advocate for them. Encourage your legislators to develop policies, codes, and laws to further protect consumers.

For more information about World Hand Hygiene Day and how you can spread the word (not the germs), visit the WHO's website.

And to learn even more, including how ancient cultures dealt with disease and hygiene and how scientific developments led to the germ theory, pick up Miryam Wahrman's The Hand Book: Surviving a Germ-Filled World, available now!

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

An American Woman in the City of Violins

Carleen Hutchins measuring the thickness of a violin plate, ca. 1960. Images courtesy of Hutchins estate.

by Quincy Whitney
author of American Luthier: Carleen Hutchins—the Art & Science of the Violin

Cremona, Italy, October 1997. Standing in Piazza Lodi, I felt a ­mixture of excitement and frustration at the realization that my husband Eli and I had clearly reached a dead-end. We had veered off the beaten path of an itinerary we had planned for an anniversary trip to Italy in order to take in the City of Violins, at the suggestion of Carleen Hutchins, whom I had met just a month before. We were now evidently quite lost.

I met Carleen because of a stranger sitting next to me at the New Hampshire Humanities Council annual dinner who, upon hearing that I was a Boston Globe arts reporter covering New Hampshire, said I should contact a violinmaker who summered up on Lake Winnipesaukee. Nevertheless, when I took up her lead, the most significant interview I ever conducted was almost the fish that got away. When I phoned Hutchins to ask for an interview, she turned me down flat. In fourteen years, I had never come across an artist, educator, historian, or scholar who did not want free publicity. I soon discovered that Carleen Hutchins seldom did the predictable thing. Taken aback by her refusal, I hung on the phone, contemplating my next move. Suddenly, Hutchins blurted out: “What’s your angle?” No one had ever asked me about “my angle” before. With no time for a clever comeback, the first thing that came to mind was the truth—I told her I was fascinated by stories where science and art overlap. Bingo. The door opened. “That’s exactly what I do,” Hutchins said. “When do we talk?”

Two weeks after my feature appeared in the Globe in August 1997, Hutchins phoned to ask if I would consider writing her biography. Tired of weekly deadlines and intrigued by the idea of a larger project, I still wondered if everything she had told me could possibly be true, as her story seemed too remarkable to be real. Just a month later in October 1997, a serendipitous trip to Italy cast away all doubt. When Hutchins found out that my husband and I were going to Italy, she asked if we would mind visiting Cremona, “City of Violins” and the birthplace of Antonio Stradivari, as she was bent on tracking down an old friend who had moved his workshop—Maestro Francesco Bissolotti. “Bisso,” as Carleen called him, was one of two master luthiers who in 1937 had founded the city’s prestigious violinmaking school in honor of the two hundredth anniversary of Stradivari’s death. Hutchins wanted to send him Research Papers in Violin Acoustics 1975–1993, the definitive collection she had just finished editing.

Now here we stood in Piazza Lodi. After hiking up the stairs to Bisso’s abandoned workshop, which held no clue as to a forwarding address, we had reached an impasse. As we sat in our rental car, ready to pull away, two students crossed the piazza, one carrying what looked to be a violin case. I approached the student who had stopped at a pay phone on the edge of the piazza, and in my struggling Italian, I said, “Bissolotti.”

“Bisso?” he said suddenly in broken English as he hung up the phone. “We have never met Maestro Bissolotti, but we have come to Cremona today to buy a viola!” The four of us meandered down a cobblestone street as if feeling our way in the dark, until two Japanese gentlemen appeared out of nowhere, asking, “Bisso?” We followed them to an archway leading to a small courtyard, through an open wrought iron gate, into a smaller courtyard, where we found ourselves pulling the knocker on an old door covered with peeling green paint.

We were ushered into the outer room of the workshop of “Bisso,” a short man with a mustache and winning smile, who immediately began speaking Italian to the student bent on purchasing a viola. Bisso knew not a word of English, but when I presented a letter signed by Hutchins, his face lit up. He motioned for one of his apprentices, Lorenzo Cassi, to accompany us on a tour of the Palazzo Comunale. When I asked Lorenzo if he knew of Hutchins, he replied: “I have never met her, but we have read every paper she has ever written!”
Carleen Hutchins, ca. 1990.

To find the Collezione Civica in the Palazzo Comunale, one need only look for the tall bell tower in the heart of Cremona. Inside the galleries, glass display cases house the earliest known violin, made in 1566 by Andrea Amati—the undisputed father of the violin—along with a 1615 viola made by Amati’s son Girolamo, a 1689 Giuseppe Guarneri violin, and a 1715 Stradivarius violin. On the day we visited, in the corridor just outside the violin galleries, we passed From Tree to Violin, a month-long exhibition created by the violinmaking school. Had we visited two weeks later, we would have missed it. The very last exhibit panel was devoted to Carleen Maley Hutchins.

Here in the City of Violins, keeping company with the most celebrated names in the violin world—all of them Italian men—was a living American female violinmaker, a woman who had taught herself acoustics by carving violins. I was immediately intrigued. Why had I never heard of this female luthier who had asked me to tell her story? In the midst of our conversations, Hutchins would get phone calls from luthiers in Australia or China, physicists and museum curators in England and Scotland, a dendro­chronologist in Paris, a luthier in Belgium, members of the St. Petersburg Philharmonic in Russia, a conductor in California, a faculty member at Juilliard. It became clear Hutchins had developed an international community around violin acoustics and she had created a new family of violins—yet she seemed to be a hidden treasure.

The preceding is excerpted from the introduction in American Luthier.