The Week: What Caught Our Eye

April 23, 2022

A small pond surrounded by evergreens and a sun-lit cloudy skyYou just can’t take your eyes away from the colors of spring as they burst forth at Moreau Lake State Park. (Jim Pierson)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

If COVID reinforced one lesson, it’s to spend your days wisely, immersed in important work you love with people you admire. A few decades back, a basketball coach named Jim Brown ran one of the more successful junior college programs in the nation, a place where talented players went to improve their grades and their games in hopes of earning a scholarship to a four-year school.

Given the array of talent he could choose from, he was asked what he most looked for in a player. He said words to the effect of, “That’s easy. Give me the guy who loves the game. He’ll take coaching and keep working at it because he wants to get better.”

A similar dynamic is at play in the workforce, says bestselling author Marcus Buckingham, who just published a book that argues loving some aspect of your work is necessary to be truly successful and fulfilled on the job. He told an interviewer, “(T)he two most discriminating questions in terms of high-performing and low-performing (are), do I have a chance to use my strengths every day at work? And was I excited to go to work every day last week?” He noted, “when … you’re studying highly successful people in any role, from housekeepers, to teachers, to lawyers, to doctors, or whatever, and you’re interviewing them about what they do, you always find that there are moments, situations, or context that they love. They don’t love all that they do, but they do find love in what they do.”

REVERSAL OF FORTUNE: Ambrose Bierce, a multi-faced writer known for cutting criticism and satire, was unsparing in his assessment of those who chased riches through jackpots — “Lottery: A tax on people who are bad at math.” Or incorrigibly optimistic. We were thinking about Bierce this week as we bought tickets for tonight’s New York Lotto jackpot of $400 million. And then we ran across this: People who defy the long odds to strike it rich, only to forfeit the cash for failure to claim the prize.

THE BOOKS SHE CARRIED: A month ago, Anastasiia Konovalova was teaching at an elementary school in Odesa, Ukraine. She left when Russia invaded. But as she packed, rather than bring more clothes, she gathered up the school’s math books and took them with her to Romania, where, after helping evacuate 40 teachers, mothers and children from Odesa, she led the work to set up a school for Ukrainian refugee children.

THEIR LABOR OF LOVE: For 40 years, the senior quilters of Shenendehowa have gathered every Monday at the Clifton Park, N.Y., senior center to assemble quilts. They’ve made more than 100, all donated to local charities to auction off for thousands of dollars. Now, they say, they’ll leave large quilts behind and focus on smaller projects. The last of their queen-size beauties, a “Hometown Sampler,” will be auctioned off this Mother’s Day to benefit Kelly’s Angels, the Capital Region charity that helps children and families facing life-threatening illness. Purchase the quilt and wrap a loved one in warmth, or warm yourself up (and impress your Mom) by participating, in person or virtually, in the 10th annual Kelly’s Angels 5K Mother Lovin’ Run and Walk on Sunday, May 8.

A LOUDMOUTH’S CRY FOR HELP: Bob Lonsberry is a conservative radio talk show host and former newspaper columnist who once called himself “the most fired man in Rochester media.” He is very popular but got fired, repeatedly, because he said things that were cruel, hurtful, and defamatory. He sacrificed jobs, marriages, and friendships. “Hell is a fire of your own building, which you heap on the heads of others. And I find myself in the last quarter of my life having destroyed the life of everyone who has ever loved me. I avoided my mother’s alcoholism and dependency on headshrinkers, but I chose a far more damaging fate.” This week, at long last, Lonsberry asked for help.

A lake with open water and ice, with snow-capped mountains in the backgroundCause to celebrate: It's ice out, or soon will be, at Lake Placid and other Adirondack lakes. (Nancie Battaglia)

TICK TROUBLES: With 18 inches of new snow, they’re still skiing at Gore Mountain in North Creek, N.Y., this weekend. Yet, overall, the weather in Upstate New York is warming, and that means tick season is here. Only now, instead of worrying just about Lyme disease, people who venture out to the trails and woods need to be concerned about two more tick-borne illnesses — babesia, which can be life-threatening to people with weak immune systems, and anaplasma, a bacterial disease whose symptoms are similar to Lyme. “Of all the tick-borne illnesses, babesia and anaplasma are really the two that are scary,” Dr. Kris Paolino, an infectious disease specialist at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, told Syracuse.com. “They can get really severe and they can kill people if not picked up on early enough.”

VISIT MUSEUMS, NOT BARS: With mask mandates dropping throughout the country, Scientific American asked experts in epidemiology, medicine, risk assessment and aerosol transmission for advice on how to decide which risks we should be willing to take. One factor to consider: Museums, big-box stores and grocery stores with high ceilings remain a safer bet than a crowded bar; one expert said talking in bars expels a similar number of respiratory particles as coughing, “so it’s like everyone’s in there coughing together.” 

WE THREE KINGS: More than 30 years ago, Siena College created the annual Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King Lecture on Race and Nonviolent Social Change to help amplify the ideals of the nonviolent human rights movement. Over the years, Coretta Scott King has spoken at Siena, as has her daughter Bernice. On May 3, Martin Luther King III will be on campus to deliver the lecture at a time of heightened racial tension. “You listen with your ears,” King says, “but you hear with your hearts because that’s when you have the capacity to make change.”

PAIN AT THE PUMP: A gas station owner in Tennessee was the most popular guy in town for about 5 hours last week, when customers were lining up to take advantage of gas that was selling for 45 cents a gallon. A consumer with a conscience pointed out the error, which cost the station owner a bundle — the typical profit on a gallon of gas is about 10 to 15 cents. “What I find most frustrating about this is that this man … with the guts to own a small business would get screwed over by people for half of (the) day,” the honest customer, who said he paid what he should have, wrote on Facebook. “How many people this morning thought, it’s my lucky day, while this man was getting taken to the cleaners?”

SERVE YOURSELF: Speaking of gas pumps, New Jersey, where people grow up having no idea how to pump their own gas because doing so is prohibited, may be about to ditch its 73-year-old ban on self-service gas pumps in an effort to lower costs for drivers and acknowledge the difficulty station owners have hiring and retaining employees. The “Motorist Fueling Choice and Convenience Act” would allow all gas stations to offer self-service, though those with more than four pumps would still be required to have a full-service option between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.

THE OTHER JACKIE ROBINSON: In the 75 years since he broke Major League Baseball’s color barrier, Jackie Robinson has emerged as an American cultural icon, his number 42 retired throughout all of baseball but for one day a year, when every major leaguer wears the number in his honor. But to focus only on Robinson the pioneering ballplayer is to miss another legacy — that of a pioneering entrepreneur who owned a clothing store and co-founded both a bank and a construction company, setting an example for such modern athlete-entrepreneurs as LeBron James and Magic Johnson. “The same spirit of a guy who can steal home base 19 times, that’s the same spirit of a guy who can go into a business and succeed,” Robinson’s son, David, told Forbes.

TALKING NO TRASH: Sweden, a country of 10 million people, stands apart from the rest of the world in its fidelity to the principle of minimizing waste. It sends less than one percent of the waste it produces each year to landfills. The county recycles about half its waste. The other half? Nearly all of it is incinerated to generate electricity and heat, the country’s 34 waste-to-energy plants supplying nearly 1.5 million households with heat and 780,000 with electricity.

STOP THE PRESSES: You’ve probably read a fair amount about climate change, but not everybody thinks the issue is getting the coverage it deserves from America’s major newspapers. Early Friday, activists with Extinction Rebellion shut down operations at the Queens plant where The New York Times, the New York Post and the Wall Street Journal are printed, disrupting home delivery to thousands.

JOY RIDE: The way Alvin Carter sees it, his job is to lift up each child as much as it is to deliver them safely to Elizabeth Meyer School in Skokie, Ill., a job he’s been doing joyfully for 28 years. He has a smile and a kind word for each of the kindergartners as they step on his bus, and he’s concerned for them when they’re not there. During the COVID school closures, he heard some of the kids and their parents were worried about him, so he got in his bus and drove it around, stopping to honk, smile and wave at the children who beamed back from their windows. He’s done it for so long and with such grace that there’s no such thing as a quick trip to Target, not when so many people want to say hi to Mr. Alvin.

RAW FOOTAGE: By any measure, Greg Norman was an enormously successful professional golfer, a two-time British Open champion and 20-time winner on the PGA Tour. He has continued his success in business. But for all his achievements, the Australian is best remembered for an epic final-round collapse at the 1996 Masters, among a series of near-misses that marked his career in golf’s U.S. majors. A new documentary by ESPN explores the cumulative impact of what Golf Digest called “his several soul-crushing setbacks,” with deeply raw and introspective comments from Norman himself.

OUT OF THE SHADOWS:  Tina Holava-Hughes doesn’t shy away from the fact she’s been selling marijuana on the street for three decades. “I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done,” she told a Syracuse-area interviewer. “I know the many health benefits. I know it can relieve pain, and help with anxiety. I believe I’ve been helping people like that for 30 years.” Now, she’s looking forward to going into the business of growing and selling cannabis legally with her daughter.

LIVES

ZIPPY CHIPPY was neither zippy nor chippy. He was a thoroughbred born to be a champion but best known for a career record of zero wins in 100 races – and, of course, his penchant for sometimes being nippy. Some called him a loser, but he did seem to connect with the fans in the stands because he was said to favor Doritos, popcorn, and cold beer. He threatened to win a few times but then thought better of it. His trainer Felix Monserrate once told the media: “My horse, he’s been losing real close lately.” In his dotage, Zippy Chippy was cared for by the Old Friends at Cabin Creek near Saratoga, which promises a dignified retirement for thoroughbred race horses and where he served honorably on the “Board of Directors.” He was 31.

GEORGE MICHAEL PARSONS was a product of Albany, N.Y., not Dixieland, but over 65 years he introduced his upstate New York neighbors to New Orleans riverboat jazz. He was known as Skip for a comic strip he liked as a kid, which was when he picked up the clarinet. He formed his first band just after graduating from high school, played the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid and had return engagements there for 40 years, and brought appreciative audiences to The Fountain restaurant in Albany for 48. "That's what he did — played, all the time," his wife Linda Parsons said. He was 86.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

“You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”

—    A.A. Milne

THE SIGNOFF

FOOT IN MOUTH: The Canadian Health Ministry in Québec has been posting daily COVID-19 updates on Twitter. But for about 30 minutes last week, the link in the update took viewers to a 10-minute foot fetish video called “Femdom Feet Worship” on a porn site. The ministry attributed the error to “a situation beyond our control.”

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Jim Pierson, Nancie Battaglia, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Claire P. Tuttle, 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.  www.behancommunications.com

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.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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