The Week What Caught Our Eye

November 14, 2020

CrownFocusRainbow.jpg“The further sky, the greater length, the more the storm, the more the strength…” (Kevin Kelly)

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends:

And it is a good morning. Light a candle. There were reasons for hope and optimism in last week’s otherwise distressing headlines about the spread of coronavirus. Even as our immediate concern is the global pandemic, there are, thankfully, huge talents in our communities who are thinking about how to change the world and save lives.

Consider Kirsh Helmets. They intend to save lives by putting safer helmets on the heads of the coolest motorcyclists coast to coast. Their new twist on the classic half helmet is being produced in Queensbury – a victory for safety, style, comfort, and the Warren County economy.

Meanwhile, you’ve been watching plant-based meat alternatives surge in demand, with the introduction of new menu staples like the Impossible Whopper as just one high-profile example.  Now, Atlast Food Co., a startup based in Green Island, is seeking to sizzle up some market share with MyBacon, made from the same mushroom-based material that has fueled the success of another Green Island innovator, Ecovative Design.

Pfizer turned everybody’s head with the Monday morning announcement that it had developed a vaccine showing a 90% efficacy rate against the coronavirus. What you may not have heard is that the lead researcher for the vaccine trial is Dr. Stephen Thomas of the Trudeau Institute in Saranac Lake, chief of infectious disease at SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

And, as it seeks to protect travelers from COVID-19, Albany International Airport this week became the first in the world – yes, you read that right — to offer a new app developed by GE that shows how recently bathrooms, seating areas, ticket counters and other high-touch surfaces were sanitized.


ARTIST IN RESIDENCE: Isla Besha, a 12-year-old from Altamont, got busy when author J.K. Rowling invited young readers to submit illustrations for her new book, The Ickabog. Isla submitted two dozen of the more than 42,000 pieces from across the U.S. and Canada that were sent to the book’s publisher, and one of hers was among 34 selected for the book.

SOUNDS OF THE BERKSHIRES: Adrianne Lenker was supposed to spend the summer touring with Big Thief, a folkish indie rock band that has developed a loyal following and generated praise from The New Yorker, but the pandemic changed all that. Instead, Lenker spent time in a cabin in The Berkshires, where she recorded two new albums using only analog tape.

MILLION DOLLAR HOME SALES: Columbia County, two hours north of New York City and with easy access to Amtrak, has ridden the wave of relocations from crowded urban areas, especially when it comes to seven-figure home sales. Over the past six months, Columbia County led the region with 26 transactions of $1 million-plus. Saratoga County had 17 sales of more than $1 million, Warren and Washington Counties nine each.

CUT YOURSELF SOME SLACK: Leaders facing very tough calls affecting other people often beat themselves up. A little self-compassion and mindfulness can help them muster the courage to face the hard facts, build greater resiliency for the long run, and develop a deeper commitment to helping others.

IT’S A GIRL?!?: It’s not every day that a birth announcement is national news. But then, it’s not every day that a mother who is giving birth for the 15th time welcomes her first daughter. Say hello to Maggie Jayne Schwandt, younger sister of Tyler, Zach, Drew, Brandon, Tommy, Vinny, Calvan, Gabe, Wesley, Charlie, Luke, Tucker, Francisco and Finley.

READING TO WIN: The Times Union’s Joyce Bassett, whose work we highlighted recently when she wrote about women’s lacrosse star Kayla Treanor, is back with book recommendations for young women in athletics, “our future leaders,” as well as other informative and uplifting media to enlighten and inspire.

AN AGENCY IS BORN: Fifty years ago, a Temporary Study Commission delivered a report to New York Gov. Nelson Rockefeller recommending the creation a powerful state agency to govern public and private lands in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack Park Agency Act was born. Philip Terrie, an Adirondack and environmental historian and author, takes a fascinating look back at the work of the Temporary Study Commission on the Future of the Adirondacks, — and its 181 recommendations that have shaped policy and sparked division for the last half-century.

BEAUTIFUL ANY WAY YOU SAY IT: The Adirondacks, a frequent subject on “Jeopardy!” during its 37 seasons, came up again this week. Given the answer “Become a 46er by hiking Whiteface, Haystack and 44 other peaks in this range of upstate New York,” the contestant came up with a questionable variation on the name of our region. Welcome to the Ideronderacks.

UPS AND DOWNS: The Trek, a website for serious hikers, takes on the Great Range Traverse, a punishing route through the High Peaks of the Adirondacks that features nearly 9,500 feet of elevation gain over 26 miles and 10 summits. The article is loaded with helpful tips and links as well.

NIGHT PROWLERS: Have you wondered who lurks in the woods at dawn and dusk? Photographer Ed Burke captured the action in Saratoga County.


ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE: Linda Longe sleeps every night in the passenger seat of a non-running SUV with flat tires in a parking lot in prosperous Saratoga County. She used to have a trailer with flowers and a couple of parrots, but that life is gone. Now, she can’t even start the car for heat. She needs help but has not been able to get it. She dreams of someday having a small place of her own and taking a hot bath.

SERVICE ANIMALS: The Times Union’s Wendy Liberatore takes readers inside Saratoga WarHorse, a program that pairs veterans coping with PTSD with retired racehorses in a therapeutic approach that is designed to foster trust and supports mental and emotional healing. The program has expanded into Maryland and South Carolina.

ROCK ON: Emily Harrington is the first woman to free-climb the Golden Gate route up El Capitan, a 3,000-foot-high rock face in Yosemite National Park, in under 24 hours. That means she used only her hands and feet, with ropes and other gear there only for safety purposes. There’s not much you can add to that.

JOYFUL NOISE: Nandi Bushell of Ipswich, England, wanted it known: she was challenging her favorite drummer, Foo Fighters frontman and former Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl, to a drum-off (“He thrashes the kit really hard,” she told The New York Times, “which I like.”) He accepted, thus beginning an unlikely and joyful friendship that is benefitting music fans the world over. Did we mention Nandi is 10?

HISTORIC FIRST LADY: Jill Biden intends to continue as an English professor at a community college not far from the White House in addition to her duties as First Lady. None of her predecessors have maintained a full-time career while in the White House.

A WIN FOR FAMILIES: Colorado voters last week approved a measure guaranteeing residents the right to three months of paid family leave. That’s long been the norm in Iceland, with profound affects both for parenting and for addressing historical gender-based inequalities.

TOP DOG: Wilbur, a 6-month-old French bulldog, was named the mayor of Rabbit Hash, in Boone County, Ky. No, this isn’t another story about people who view local politics as a joke. Rabbit Hash never has had a human mayor, but each election cycle, people from around the world cast their votes for a canine one. Each voter pays $1, with proceeds benefiting the local humane society.

THE MUSIC IN YOUR HEAD: We all have friends who dance to music only they can hear. New sound-beaming technology may make it possible for you and you alone to hear music (or other things) without headphones.

09-21-20 Saratoga Natl Cemetary 2-Tina .jpgHonoring veterans this week, we remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice and whose remains are interred at the Gerald B. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery in Schuylerville. (Tina Suhocki)


ALEX TREBEK was a welcomed presence in American living rooms for 36 years as the host — never the star, he insisted — of Jeopardy! It was a nightly reminder that facts matter, that intelligence is to be celebrated. The show, and its host, became a cultural phenomenon, from The Simpsons to Seinfeld to Saturday Night Live. “On a show that was usually scheduled between the depressing evening news and a night of reality and crime shows,” James Poniewozik wrote in The New York Times, “Alex Trebek did more than teach us trivia and betting strategies. He gave us, five days a week, a place to go where it was OK to know things. He was our trusted man with the answers, even in times when reality came to us in the form of a question.” He was 80.

TOM HEINSOHN was synonymous with the Boston Celtics. An eight-time champion as a forward, he later coached the team to two more titles and was a broadcaster for more than four decades. He is in the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach. The legendary Red Auerbach called his decision to fire Heinsohn as coach in 1978 “the most traumatic experience in my 32 years in the NBA.” He was 86.

DREW MATONAK was at the helm during a period of impressive growth in both facilities and degree programs at Hudson Valley Community College, overseeing a $200 million facilities plan and the addition of 25 new degree and certificate programs during 13 years as president. He retired in 2018. He was 66.


We began today with the words of Douglas Malloch. Here’s the full poem:

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,

But stood out in the open plain

And always got its share of rain

Never became a forest king

But lived and died a scrubby thing

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,

Who never had to win his share,

Of sun and sky and light and air

Never became a manly man

But lived and died as he began

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees,

The further sky, the greater length,

The more the storm, the more the strength,

By sun and cold, by rain and snow

In trees and men good timbers grow

Where thickest lies the forest growth
We find the patriarchs of both

And they hold counsel with the stars

Whose broken branches show the scars

Of many winds and much of strife

This is the common law of life.


“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” —  J.K. Rowling


Quick, get Rudy Giuliani on the phone; we have evidence of voting fraud. Bird of the Year 2020, an online popularity contest among the native birds of New Zealand, was tainted when a hacker slipped more than 1,500 fake votes into an election database. “It’s kind of disappointing that people decide to try their little tech tricks on Bird of the Year,” a spokeswoman for the competition told Radio New Zealand.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Tina Suhocki, Matt Behan, Bill Richmond, Kevin Kelly, Kelly Donahue, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tara Hutchins, and Claire P. Tuttle.

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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