The Week: What Caught Our Eye

October 2, 2021

Aerial view of a forest and lakes in autumnThe splendor of upstate New York in autumn. Enjoy the warmth while it lasts. (John Bulmer)

Good Morning, Colleagues and Friends.

Today we celebrate a teacher who models the open-mindedness and thirst for knowledge that are hallmarks of the truly inquisitive.

Jenny Starr teaches middle school and high school science in the Green Island School District, north of Albany. Over the summer, she voluntarily spent seven weeks embedded with Norlite, a manufacturer of lightweight aggregate in Cohoes, N.Y., as part of an independent continuing education program through Questar III BOCES. Norlite has been targeted by individuals who claim, despite contrary evidence, that Norlite’s operations negatively impact the environment and nearby populations. There were no limits on what she saw or the information she could access.

Her experience was, she said, “really eye-opening.”

“Everyone thinks Norlite pollutes, but they recover energy from hazardous waste safely and with less pollution than an average person's day-to-day activities such as pumping gas and dripping on the concrete,” she said for an article published in the school newsletter.

She knows because she took the time to learn. A great life lesson.

THANK YOU, OFFICER: Coretta James was born outside the U.S. and doesn’t come from a military or law enforcement family. She simply wants the police to know how much they’re appreciated. So she has made it her mission to send hand-written thank you notes to all 36,000 members of the NYPD. In every one, according to the New York Post, she writes, “Thank you for your service in the NYPD. It takes a special person to take a job that every time you put on your uniform, you put your life at risk … Grateful for your service.” “This is a personal, intimate expression of kindness to another human,” retired NYPD Transit Chief Joe Fox told The Post, adding that many of the recipients hang the cards in their lockers or take them home to show family.

WELCOME BACK: A decades-long effort to restore trout populations in Lake Erie appears to be bearing fruit. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation announced that scientists have documented the first lake trout reproduction in Lake Erie in more than 60 years. Lake trout were thought to have disappeared completely from Lake Erie in the 1960s, but the state has been restocking it from a hatchery in Western New York since 1973.

CHANGE IN DIRECTION: Boston Consulting Group, whose business is helping other organizations deal with difficult challenges, is getting a new leader. Rich Lesser is stepping down after eight years as CEO, a time that seen business priorities and challenges shift dramatically. Conversations about integrating new technologies and managing technology-driven disruptions have taken a back seat to navigating turbulent political times and addressing matters of corporate social responsibility. “What we’ve seen over the last two years is really a reshaping of context,” he told The New York Times.

ALBANY PRIZE WINNERS: Two of the three scientists honored with the $1 million Albany Prize a week ago have now won a prestigious Lasker Prize, the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. When, in 2005, Dr. Katalin Kariko and Dr. Drew Weissman published a surprising finding they had made about messenger RNA, also known as mRNA, which provides instructions to cells to make proteins, most scientists were uninterested. The finding seemed esoteric. Then the coronavirus emerged.

A MOVIE TIME OF YEAR: If you’re an independent film buff, fall is the season for major Upstate New York film festivals. As the Woodstock Film Festival wraps up,  The Adirondack Film Festival returns to Glens Falls Oct. 14-17 with both in-person and virtual showings and more than 70 comedies, shorts, documentaries and music videos. Topics range from the frustration of COVID isolation and conversations overhead in the shower to epilepsy, land disputes and narcotraffickers, endangered seabirds and asparagus. The Lake Placid Film Festival is Oct. 21-24, and one highlight will be “Rockaway Sunset,” about a terminally ill elderly woman who, instead of going to a doctor’s appointment, hops in a cab and takes off with the driver.

BILLIONS IN ALBANY: The dark but compelling Showtime series about Wall Street featuring Paul Giamatti and Damian Lewis is the latest big-time production to capitalize on venues in the Capital Region. One of the attractions: Historic architecture and streetscapes that can easily pass for larger urban areas, like New York City.

HARMONY AND UNDERSTANDING: As cultural organizations consider their own commitments to diversity and inclusion, the artists of the Albany Symphony are exploring the experience of Albany’s Black community and its rich culture. They’re bringing together nationally acclaimed artists to tell or retell through music, dance and poetry the untold stories of the Black American experience in the Capital Region. Intentional “allyship” with minority communities is the goal.

A loon on a lake with mist at sunriseThere’s nothing more magical than a loon on a lake (in this case, Big Moose Lake) at sunrise. (Nancie Battaglia)

BUILD IT AND THEY … : Why a housing crunch locally and nationally? For 20 years or so, we’ve built too few homes in America to meet demand. Over the past decade, Americans’ wages have increased only by about 2% to 3% a year, according to the U.S. Labor Department, while home prices have risen at a rate of about 7% each year over the same time. Since COVID-19 upended the world in March 2020, prices have risen 13.5% through August, according to listing data.

WE’RE VERKLEMPT: Upstate New York brewer and punster Jeremy Cowan will soon stop brewing Shmaltz Beer, which he describes as the biggest, smallest and only Jewish beer in the United States. Characteristically, Clifton-Park based Shmaltz is celebrating its farewell after 25 years with the release of Exodus 2021 Barleywine Ale. Cowan plans to focus on his Alphabet City Brewing Company, the 518 Craft tasting room in Troy, and a burgeoning consulting practice.

MUSK? NO, THAT’S THE SWEET SMELL OF PROGRESS: “In just a decade or so he has managed to create a rocket that has flown more times than just about any other rocket. He has also produced more rocket engines than any other rocket line … He (has launched) a fleet of communications satellites that now constitutes the greatest number of satellites in space for any one company … (He has) also produced the world’s most advanced and innovative electric car company …. These cars are years ahead of much of the competition, in design, in efficiency, in range, in speed and acceleration, and in safety and affordability … and the value of his electric car company is greater than any other U.S. automaker.’’ Economics professor Colin Read explores the contradictions of Elon Musk.

CREATIVE CLASS: Engineer Marian Croak, who holds more than 200 patents, and the late ophthalmologist Dr. Patricia Bath, whose work reshaped cataract surgery, are the first two Black women selected for induction to the National Inventors Hall of Fame, the organization announced this week. Meanwhile, a first-of-its-kind gene-editing experiment is showing promise for people with vision loss, enabling some to see much more clearly and brightly than they could before the treatments. On the other side of the world, a 14-year-old girl in India has invented a solar-powered ironing cart that is an alternative for the millions of charcoal-burning ironing carts that ply the streets of India’s cities, pressing clothes for workers and families. And back home, the MacArthur Foundation announced its “genius grant” recipients for 2021, a group that includes artists, authors, scientists, activists and historians.

PICTURING PEACE: Doctors in Brussels have begun prescribing museum visits as a natural means of stress relief, a program inspired by a Canadian museum’s offer of free admission to patients, caregivers and family members to study the effect of art on patients with a range of conditions. Outcomes of the Belgian initiative will be studied as well, with results expected to be published in 2022. 

MAKING THE MOST OF HER TIME: Her mom was late to pick her up, and surfer Kayla Smith, thankfully, was hanging out on the beach after a day in the waves. That’s when she spotted three men struggling in the water. All of 16 and chock full of confidence, she hopped back on her board and saved them.

HOSPITAL ATTACKS: To the mounting challenges faced by people in health care during this pandemic, add physical assault. Attacks on hospital caregivers have risen dramatically nationwide, so much so that a hospital in Missouri is equipping staff with panic buttons.

COUPLES BUILDING THE FUTURE: At West Mountain in Queensbury, N.Y., owners Spencer and Sara Montgomery have invested heavily to transform the family skiing experience. Now, they are taking the next step with a proposed $50 million plan to create a ski-and-stay winter resort, a major piece of the overall push for year-round tourism in Warren County. Meanwhile, in Washington County, Salem natives Jon and Deana Ketchum have come home from Denver to turn an abandoned garment factory into an artistic community centerpiece where they will build furniture for homes and taprooms. 

WILD KINGDOM: The 2,200 or so bears of Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska are a well-fed lot, gorging on the abundance of salmon that swim into the Brooks River from Bristol Bay. Footage of the frolicking, feasting bears spawned Fat Bear Week, which has grown from a single-day promotion in 2014 to a weeklong celebration in which nearly 650,000 cast votes for the title of fattest brown bear. The bears are fattening up for their winter hibernations. Fortunately for them, hibernation is temporary; that’s not the case for 23 birds, fish and other species that were declared extinct this week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. And in the North Country of New York State, one young woman has taken it upon herself to ensure the safety and protection of snapping turtle populations around an Adirondack lake, demonstrating that one person’s actions really can make a significant difference.

BAG MEN: Two men in Louisiana were charged with a crime this week that, you have to admit, was pretty clever, given how long they got away with it and how much they allegedly collected. It involved scamming airlines into paying claims for lost luggage that never, in fact, existed. All told, according to authorities, 180 bogus claims netted them more than $500,000 in lost-baggage payments. Each faces years in prison.

PUT IT IN PARK: We’re more than a little obsessed with Eleven Madison Park, once celebrated as the world’s best restaurant. It reopened recently to great fanfare and an all-vegan menu. But wait: Pete Wells of The New York Times has now discovered that EMP, as the cool kids call it, has a secret room for beef lovers. Oh, and the vegetable dishes are turned into unrecognizable stand-ins for meat and fish.

DON’T TELL ME: Mandates are in the news a lot these days, as are the hostile reactions to them, whether it’s mandated coronavirus vaccines for health care workers or mandated mask wearing in schools. If you’re thinking about instituting a mandate, or it’s your job to enforce one, it’s helpful to understand that our brains automatically perceive mandates as a violation of autonomy, which is central to feeling in control or having a choice. There are strategies to help people recapture a sense of control and feel less threatened.

POP FOULS: A Pop Warner football league in Central New York canceled the remainder of the season for teams in Utica, Rome and Oneida because of persistent spectator misbehavior (translation: parents kept cursing at each other and occasionally brawled, you know, like adults always do). League and game officials will meet in the spring to reassess the decision.

CAST IN STONE: Fans of “Saturday Night Live” may recall the 2021 season finale last spring, when the words and body language of several longtime cast members left viewers wondering if major changes were coming for season 47. The answer came this week, and it was a resounding no. All of the regular cast members from 2020-21 are back with the exception of Beck Bennett, a versatile performer best known for his impressions of Vladimir Putin and former Vice President Mike Pence. The show last season was the most-watched entertainment program on TV among viewers between 18 and 49, and now is carried live in all markets, meaning that it runs in primetime in certain parts of the country.


ESTHER MASSRY was born in Brooklyn and came to Troy with her husband Morris where they started a children’s clothing store. She knew exactly what her customers needed: She and her husband were raising six kids. Morris Massry went on to launch Tri-City Rentals, which grew into a Capital Region residential and commercial empire. Together, they made the Massry name synonymous with extraordinary Capital Region philanthropy. She was 90.

BOBBY ZAREM was the widely recognized publicity king of New York City in the 1970s and ‘80s, who claimed to have coined the tourism slogan “I Love New York” while on a Saturday night stroll on a barren street. He was the driving force behind securing $16 million in initial state funding for what became a wildly successful, upbeat marketing campaign that recast the city’s image and is credited with reigniting tourism in the Big Apple. He was 84.


Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity
– Martin Luther King Jr.


Rex Chapman was a talented and productive professional basketball player who has gained new fame and a following with a Twitter feed that is unfailingly entertaining. As he writes in the intro to this clip, “If you’ve already seen a couple of chickens break up a couple of rabbits fighting today then just keep on scrolling ...”

 THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Bulmer, Nancie Battaglia, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, Claire P. Tuttle, John Brodt, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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