The Week: What Caught Our Eye

December 19, 2020

Sunrise through trees in winter.The sun on the breast of a new-fallen snow as captured by the artist photographer John Bulmer

Good morning, Colleagues and Friends.

Yes, Virginia, even in this pandemic, there will be snow days. And sleds. Snow forts and hot cocoa. And wonderful winter memories to make glad the heart of childhood. The superintendent of the Broadalbin-Perth School District has declared it so with a light but lovely reminder that some traditions are worth preserving, and that there are few gifts as random and magical as a snow day.

Thank you, Mr. Tomlinson. Your community is fortunate to have you.

Speaking of good fortune, MacKenzie Scott, the world’s richest woman and the former wife of founder Jeff Bezos, has made these holidays forever memorable for non-profits and colleges across the nation by distributing more than $4.16 billion in donations over the past four months, including $10 million to the Capital District YMCA and $5 million to United Way of the Capital Region, in both cases the largest donations in the history of those organizations. Good news, and welcomed relief.

THE LIFT YOU NEED: They creak and groan, swing and sway, then sweep you up, up and away, into the silent refuge of a snowy pass. Hail the chair lift, new and fancy, or old and plain, these reliable industrial beasts spirit you to new heights of adventure or to familiar terrain, with people you know well or those whose knees you’ve just met.  

GO WEST: As sure as there’s new-fallen snow, there will be Christmas week skiing at West Mountain in Queensbury. Generations of children learned to ski on the trails the Brandt families created in the early 1960s. Spencer and Sara Montgomery purchased West in 2013 and have transformed it, pouring millions into five modern lifts for its 31 trails; full mountain lighting for night skiing, and, for the first time, full snowmaking coverage, while retaining its warm, family atmosphere. West opens today.

WHERE SANTA SHOPS: If the events of the year have taxed your holiday spirit, consider a trip to historic Canajoharie, to the Christmas store to beat all Christmas stores.

A TOAST IS IN ORDER: A massive and quirky rainstorm made 2018 a difficult year for Forge Cellars and other Finger Lakes wineries, so it’s especially rewarding that its 2018 Classique Dry Riesling placed 31st on Wine Spectator’s prestigious Top 100 list of 2020. The wine is the winery’s workhorse brand, priced at under $20 a bottle. Forge placed two of its wines on the 2017 Wine Spectator Top 100, including the 2015 Classique Riesling, which also placed 31st.

OUT THERE: Reports of UFO sightings are up 31% across New York City this year because, why wouldn’t they be? The National UFO Reporting Center (yes, that’s a thing; how else would we keep track?) has logged 46 sightings in NYC this year, with Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens neck and neck for unexplained objects in the night sky.

HUNTING MEMORIES: Good food. Great times. A warm camp. Conditions change and sometimes you come home empty-handed, but for those who look forward to it each year, there is nothing quite like the anticipation and experience of joining friends deep in the wilderness for deer season in the Adirondacks.

IMAGINATION AT WORK: With coffee shops and co-working spaces out, New Yorkers are finding new and creative ways to carve out quiet places to work, including train rides to nowhere and, until recently, setups in Central Park.

ESO FUNCIONA: Medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific needed workers at its plant in Spencer, Ind., and, fortunately for the company, a growing number of Spanish-speaking local residents was becoming available. But how to bridge the gap between English-speaking supervisors and Spanish-speaking workers? A production manager at the plant, a native of Costa Rica, came up with a solution — an all-Spanish language shift.

ABOUT 2020: The Pew Research Center combed through the studies it conducted in 2020 and came up with some remarkable findings worth reading. For example, for the first time since the Great Depression, a majority of adults 30 or younger in the U.S. were living with their parents. A majority also personally know someone who was hospitalized or died due to COVID-19. And the percentage of the world’s population living in countries with completely closed borders is eye-opening.

HELP IS ON THE WAY: Thank you to our friend Kim Heunemann at the Prospect Center in Queensbury for alerting us to this short, uplifting video of trucks leaving a Pfizer facility in Portage, Mich., with the first doses of the coronavirus vaccine. The background music is an especially nice touch.


ON TOP OF HER WORLD: Tara VanDerveer, who grew up in the West Hill section of Schenectady, this week became the winningest coach in the history of collegiate women’s basketball, passing the late Pat Summitt with her 1,099th career victory. VanDerveer has coached at Stanford since 1985, where she has won two national titles and advanced to 11 other Final Fours.

A CENTURY OF WISDOM: George P. Schultz, who served in three Cabinet posts and was director of the federal Office of Management and Budget, celebrated his 100th birthday this week with an op-ed enumerating the 10 most important lessons he has learned about trust, which he calls “the coin of the realm.” Where there is trust in the room, whatever the room, good things happen, he writes. When trust is absent, good things do not happen. “Everything else is details.”

A GIVING MOOD: Rod Hildebrant is a successful and well-known entrepreneur in Bay City, Mich., where his businesses include a grocery store. A simple post on his personal Facebook page, where he offered to pay for the first $40 of every customer’s grocery bill for a two-hour period on a Tuesday afternoon, went viral, and 250 people took him up on the offer. Closer to home, Hannaford Supermarkets this week donated $107,000 to help students in Albany and Schenectady get computers and Internet access for remote learning.

STRAIGHT SHOOTER: Some of the most dramatic and compelling photos in journalism capture the action, emotion and intensity of live sports, and few have done it better than Mary Schroeder, a longtime photographer for the Detroit Free Press. She was the photographer that editors asked for by name, and she was known and respected by the athletes and coaches she covered. She also is the first photographer and female media member to be named to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

MANNY BEING MANNY: Manny Ramirez was known nearly as much for his quirkiness and care-free air as for his dynamic offensive output during a long and productive career in the major leagues that included a starring role on two Red Sox World Series winner. Ramirez is back on the diamond at 48, this time on the other side of the world.

Snowfall along a running creek in a forest covered in snow.Only a running brook challenges the ear-filling silence after a winter storm.(John Bulmer)

HE’LL GET BY: Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the two-time reigning Most Valuable Player of the NBA, just signed a contract extension that will pay him $228 million, guaranteed, over the next five seasons. Way back when Moses Malone signed one of the first NBA mega-contracts — or what seemed like it at the time — Sports Illustrated ran the numbers and found Malone would earn something like $4.84 per second if he played all 48 minutes of every game over the NBA’s 82-game schedule. Were Antetokounmpo to play every second of every game, he would earn $193.09 a second. He’ll make $1.45 for every second, period, over the five years of the deal.

CORRECTING THE RECORD: Major League Baseball announced this week that it was recognizing players from seven Negro leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948 as major leaguers, which will result in an updating of statistical records following a review of available data by baseball’s official statistician. It is expected, for example, that 17 hits will be added to Willie Mays’ career total because of the brief time he spent in the Negro leagues, and Josh Gibson will land somewhere high on the all-time home runs list.

BRIDGE BUILDERS: A conversation that started after the death of George Floyd in police custody touched off nationwide protests has produced a new nonprofit in the Capital Region that is focused on concrete strategies to improve diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The BRIDGE Network was spearheaded by Miriam Dushane of Alaant Workforce Solutions and Walter Thorne of the Albany Business Review.

HIS JOB IS DONE: Jack Arends learned shortly after he was selected as a Washington state Democratic elector that he had an inoperable heart valve issue. It can take his life at any time. Perhaps that explains the emotion he displayed this week when casting his Electoral College ballot for President-elect Biden.

SWEET STRATEGY: If it seems that Oreo produces a lot of novelty flavors, you’re right — 65 of them, in fact, since 2012, when it unveiled a special birthday cake cookie to celebrate its 100th year in business. It may surprise you to learn the idea isn’t necessarily to get consumers to buy the new flavors. Not entirely, anyhow.

A NOD TO EXCELLENCE: Each year, the editors at Bloomberg Businessweek publish what they call the Jealousy List, the stories its writers, editors and contributors saw elsewhere that they wish they had done themselves. What it really is is a smorgasbord of excellent reporting, writing and storytelling, much of it from outlets you probably have never heard of.

FRESH OUT: If you wanted a live Christmas tree this year, you had to act fast. Like many items in this year of the pandemic, demand for live Christmas trees surged as people went all-out on festive family fun as a counterbalance to the bleakness of the ongoing pandemic. “It's just been unreal, how everybody's so excited to get a tree,” one owner of a picked-over tree lot told a North Carolina newspaper.

NO NONSENSE: Tom Cruise wanted it known to everyone on the set of Mission: Impossible 7, in very colorful terms, that he had a personal zero-tolerance policy when it came to violations of coronavirus protocols.

SEEING IS BELIEVING: A conservation technician at the Toledo Zoo in Ohio used a special camera to discover that the zoo's Tasmanian Devils are biofluorescent, meaning they glow in the dark. Technically, they absorb high-energy light and re-emit it. It's believed to be the first documented case of the phenomenon in Tasmanian Devils. Though much more common in fish, among mammals there are biofluorescent platypuses, squirrels and possums.


JIM ULLOM was a particular man. In a description certain to be remembered by those who knew him, the Times Union’s Steve Barnes wrote that Ullom “looked like Ben Franklin. He ate and drank like John Falstaff. He wanted. Things. Done. Certain. Ways.” He also was Albany’s “best restaurant customer,” a man who used his unplugged refrigerator for storage and ate every meal out, tipping generously wherever he went. The chefs who knew and served him said his discerning tastes made them better at their craft.

CHARLEY PRIDE broke into country music during the racial turmoil of the 1960s and became the genre’s first Black superstar, recording 52 country Top 10 songs over two decades, including “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” and 28 others that reached No. 1. Once a promising minor league baseball pitcher, he turned to country music after starting a family in Montana. He died of complications of COVID-19 at 86.

CAROL SUTTON, a proud daughter of New Orleans, appeared in more than 100 movies, TV shows and plays, including The Big Easy, The Pelican Brief, Steel Magnolias and The Help. “If there was a filming project in New Orleans, you knew it would damn well have a part for Carol Sutton,” Batou Chandler, an assistant director who worked with her on several films, told NPR. “Because once you work with Carol, you'll want to work with her again.” She, too, died of COVID-19 complications. She was 76.


May you never be too grown up to search the skies on Christmas Eve.


THE FISHING ISLANDS: assesses the top fisheries in North America, including the Thousand Islands, noted for its variety and size of its game fish and its easy accessibility. “You won’t get bored,” the site declares, “that’s for sure.”

Happy Holidays, All

With the holidays here, we’re going to take a break for the next two weeks. We’ll be back with the 100th edition of Facing Out on January 8, 2021. To all of our readers and friends, Merry Christmas and happy, healthy New Year. We’re almost there! See you in 2021.

THANK YOU TO OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, John Bulmer, Kim Heunemann, 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 or interest 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. 

Let’s make it a conversation:

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