The Week: What Caught Our Eye

December 12, 2020

View of a sunrise with clouds down a city streetThe sun rises to find Caroline Street in Saratoga Springs decked out for the holidays.

Despite the pandemic’s best efforts, the holiday season is upon us. (We like that line so much we wish it were ours. Alas, Martha Stewart published it as she reminded readers to ship gifts and goodies early.)  Delivery services are overwhelmed. The Post Office says you have until Tuesday to get those packages in the mail. Not to add to the pressure.

FEELING A LITTLE SPACEY: Tucked away in the nose of a NASA rocket that set off for the International Space Station recently was an unusual cargo – a dozen bottles of red Bordeaux, the most alcohol ever sent into space. It’s not a holiday delivery, but part of a study of the impact of microgravity on wine. Turns out that wine, in addition to its other pleasing properties, has led to important scientific advances, including the discovery of the existence of bacteria. The wine experiment may lead to important breakthroughs in space-age biology. We’ll toast to that.

DEWEY DARE: It may have been your elementary school librarian who first mentioned his name. If you remembered him at all, you dismissed him as a boring bookworm. Later you may have learned he was a visionary in information management. A what? What they failed to mention was his womanizing (“a serial kisser and hugger”), his notorious racism, and his singular role in bringing the 1932 Olympics to Lake Placid and creating the winter sports capital of the world.

STAR BRIGHT: Stargazers are ecstatic with what’s on the celestial menu for December. In addition to the Gemind meteor show that will send sparkles skittering across the night sky through December 17, Jupiter and Saturn will align for the first time since the Middle Ages to form the so-called “Christmas star.” Watch for it on December 21.

MYTH BUSTERS: Baseball fans look forward all year to the Grapefruit League and its western sibling, the Cactus League, the colloquial names for spring training in Florida and Arizona, respectively. Many assume Grapefruit League is somehow related to the Sunshine State’s citrus industry. No. It was a stunt gone awry involving Dodgers manager Wilbert Robinson, outfielder Casey Stengel and stunt pilot Ruth Law.

GOING IT ALONE: The Tri-City ValleyCats, the enormously popular minor league baseball team in Troy, learned this week that the franchise would not receive a coveted major league affiliation. Rather than accept an assignment to a league for draft prospects, the team’s management said they’ll take their chances on other ways to bring professional baseball to the Capital Region. If anyone can pull it off, it’s the front office team that made the ValleyCats such a huge box office success. We’re rooting for them.

BURSTING OUR BUBBLE: We love you, Saratoga Living, but did you really have to go and crush so many of the cool things we thought about the Capital Region? And while we’re at it, we hate to break it to you, but no, The Canfield Casino definitely is not haunted. As far as we know.

PEDAL POWER: Whether you prefer coastlines or city streets, mountain biking or cruising through spectacular fall foliage, sampling fine foods or relaxing with fine wine, says the best bike trips in the U.S. for 2021 include tours around Lake Champlain, the Berkshires, the Finger Lakes and Harlem. And Red Bull says if you’re looking for the Northeast’s best mountain biking trails, look no farther than Gurney Lane in Queensbury, with 13 miles of single-track and double-track trails over 152 acres.

Snow grooming machine working on ski trails“The variety of terrain makes for a great day,’’ says a Gore Goer.

MORE GORE: Ski Magazine published a preseason piece in praise of Gore Mountain that opened with a factoid that surprised us and is good news for New York skiing enthusiasts in this year of the pandemic. Of Gore, says Ski: “There’s incredible glade skiing up high, with plenty of family-friendly terrain down low, and views all around that’ll blow your mind.”

POLICY WANG: Nathan Wang of Latham had an idea: With artificial intelligence playing an ever-increasing role in our daily lives, why not expand artificial intelligence education in K-12 schools. He drafted a legislative proposal to that effect and dropped it off with Congressman Paul Tonko’s office during a 2019 visit to Washington. This week, Tonko called Wang to tell him the proposal had made it into the National Defense Authorization Act. Not bad for an 18-year-old college freshman.

ANYBODY’S GUESS: 2020 has reminded us in stark terms that the future, as much as we try to shape it and plan for it, often plays out on its own terms (or as the old saw goes, if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans). So it is with that caveat that we offer one look ahead to the expected events of 2021 for the economy, politics, technology and other topics. Find out what may be ahead for Nancy Pelosi, Boris Johnson, Donald Trump, Jeff Bezos and Ashnikko.

JOY TO THE WORLD: The editors of The Lily, a product of The Washington Post that bills itself as “a place for the curious minded and for those who want to be heard,” have compiled a list of items and experiences that helped them through what we all can agree was a tough year. Enjoy, and perhaps find some ideas to lift your spirits.


KATTSKILL BAY RETREAT: Next summer, you could start the day hiking or biking on 537 acres of forested land and, at sunset, entertain in your magical, two-story, 4,600-square foot home on the shores of Lake George with panoramic mountain views — and all of the amenities you’d expect in a property priced at a cool $12.999 million.

NEXT CHAPTER: A 64-acre southern Albany County property that for years was a seasonal resort is on the market for just under $3 million. The property operated as the Colonial Manor for about 20 years, and as a summer retreat for two religious groups over the past quarter-century. It’s being advertised nationally.

AWAY FROM IT ALL: The Mastern House, a grand mansion with a guest house on 46 acres near Henderson Lake in the shadows of the Adirondack High Peaks, was sold to a private buyer for $1 million in November. The buyer intends to use it as a private residence, though conservation easements restrict the new owner’s ability to build anything else on the property.

NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH: Corey Jones and Jahkeen Hoke both grew up in Albany’s South End neighborhood, and together they are attempting to pull off a $120 million mixed-use project that has transformative potential, and not just for the immediate neighborhood.

CREATIVE IMPULSE: Daniel Mertzlufft, a composer and music director with New York City’s iTheatrics who is a graduate of  SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music, has become something of a sensation with his short, funny TikTok videos of musical theater, which caught the attention of one national late-night host. His arrangement of “Remy the Ratatouille” by Emily Jacobson, based on the 2007 movie, prompted followers to create an entire “Ratatouille” musical. That rendition is now being turned into a benefit for Broadway.

JUNIOR ACHIEVER: Tyler Culbertson was trying to figure out a career path when his mother, a residential real estate agent, suggested he give commercial real estate a try. He got a database internship at the Albany brokerage NAI Platform and knew what he wanted to do. At 31, he is a standout performer in a famously competitive industry, success that is built on a tireless work ethic and an eye for opportunities.

IN DEPTH WITH DELGADO: Congressman Anthony Delgado, just re-elected to a second term in his Hudson Valley district, joins host Porter Braswell for a discussion on race and identity in politics on the Harvard Business Review podcast Race at Work.

HONORING LEADERSHIP: Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his Massachusetts counterpart, Charlie Baker, were honored this week with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute Award for Inspired Leadership, for their actions in managing and helping slow the spread of the coronavirus when its first wave hit last spring and also for their overall stewardship of their respective states.

MY, HOW YOU’VE GROWN: Mount Everest — you may have heard of it — had for 65 years stood at an official height of 29,028.87 feet. In a joint announcement symbolic of their warming relations, Nepal and China said they have arrived at a new, slightly higher official height.

MOUNTAIN MAN: Phil Corell spent his first summer at Pok-O-MacCready Camp in Willsboro in 1956 and was hooked on the Adirondacks. He was still a teenager when he became the 224th person known to have climbed each of the 46 High Peaks, a number than now totals around 13,000. He moved to the Adirondacks after college and never left. He also hasn’t stopped climbing, having scaled each of the peaks more than 20 times. He strolled along with WAMC’s Pat Bradley for a fascinating discussion about his lifetime of hiking and why he’s still going strong at 74.

FATHER TIME: Tim Allen is the CEO of, a service that matches families in need of child care with caregivers. He’s also a father of 5-year-old twins, and as they’ve grown, he has found himself reflecting more on how to create a workplace culture for new fathers, especially, that is supportive of family time, which he argues has benefits for all employees throughout the organization. His bottom line: Business leaders who don’t support working fathers risk losing them to companies that do.

FELINE FRIEND: The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, is, in addition to being a few years older than our republic, the second-largest art museum in the world. It has 3 million pieces in its collection, and has, since shortly after its founding by Catherine the Great, had its basements patrolled by a squad of housecats who keep the rodents away from all the fine art within its walls. The burden of caring for them was just lightened by a French philanthropist who left the cats a “small sum” in his will.

BOOK VILLAGE: Ride along with the incomparable Paul Grondahl as he visits Hobart, a small and shrinking village in Delaware County where a Manhattan couple opened a used bookstore on a whim in 2000 and started an improbable trend.

A downtown street in Glens Falls with holiday decorations at nightTake a look at the Five and Ten, glistening once again in Downtown Glens Falls (Andrea Palmer)


FEW PEOPLE can truly be called hero. General Chuck Yeager was one of those people, a World War II fighter ace who in 1947 became the first pilot to break the sound barrier, at the time a daunting aviation milestone. His story was little known until 1979, when Tom Wolfe wrote The Right Stuff, about the pilots, including Yeager, who were involved in aeronautical research at Edwards Air Force Base in California. The 1983 movie of the same name catapulted Yeager to iconic status. He trained men who would go on to join NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. Throughout his life, he broke numerous speed and altitude records, including becoming the first person to travel 21/times the speed of sound. He was 97.

FATHER PETER YOUNG, whose life story and final battle with cancer were chronicled in Facing Out earlier this fall, finally lost a fight. A beloved Albany street priest who founded nonprofits to help men get back on their feet after addiction or incarceration, he was 90.

DICK ALLEN was one of baseball’s most dominant sluggers for a decade starting in the mid-1960s, a seven-time all-star who was a Rookie of the Year, the American League’s Most Valuable Player and hit 351 home runs in 15 seasons. For a 10-year stretch he was on a statistical par with some of the game’s greatest names, including Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, but never was elected to the Hall of Fame, an oversight that was expected to be rectified by vote of the Hall’s Golden Days committee. He was 78.

WILLIAM ARONWALD was a former prosecutor marked for death in a mob hit the 1980s, only to have the hitmen screw up and murder his father. It took authorities years to piece together why someone would gun down George Aronwald, a 78-year-old hearing officer for the Parking Violations Bureau in Queens, in cold blood in a Queens laundry. William Aronwald had always suspected that his father took bullets meant for him. He was 79.

PAT PATTERSON was a professional wrestler who reveled in his assigned role as the bad guy, with theatrics that thrilled his fans. He later became an executive with the World Wrestling Federation, which later became World Wrestling Entertainment, and in 2014 became the first major wrestling figure to announce he was gay. He was 79.

PAUL SARBANES was a longtime U.S. Senator from Maryland who as a member of the U.S. House introduced and defended the first article of impeachment against President Nixon and, in the Senate, authored the Sarbanes-Oxley Act to curb fraudulent corporate accounting practices. The first senator of Greek-American heritage, he died at 87 while watching a Georgia Senate runoff debate.


WHAT’S UP, BUTTERCUP? In the annals of local crime, this is a tale both sour and sweet. It’s the 2013 story of Buttercup, a cow, or rather a fake cow, that for many years grazed (pardon us, graced) a farm in Westchester County. Buttercup became something of a local celebrity. She drew strange stares from confused passersby, and she delighted children. Until the night somebody kidnapped her. That’s when the owners found out how many people loved Buttercup.


We should all have fans like this young man, who wants Carson Wentz to know exactly why he’s got his back. This will make your day.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Barb Cataldo, Ashley O’Connor, Andrea Palmer, Matt Behan, Tina Suhocki, 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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