My plan was to do a really thoughtful blog post inspired by a podcast I’ve been listening to on the Ezra Klein show. This past Tuesday, he had a conversation with Jennifer Pahlka about why the U.S. government has such a hard time providing services.
What was most striking about what she had to say was that just the sheer complexity of the paperwork involved with most services. For instance, making a bid for a government contract involves pages and pages to be filled out, and the criteria for getting the contract isn’t based on cost.
Rather the decision is made on compliance.
Did the bidder properly respond to every detail in the pages of questions asked? (Which is maybe why the military often spends way too much for things. Remember the $450 hammers anyone?)
Pahlka is the author of (re) Coding America: Why Government is Failing in the Digital Age And How We Can do Better, which Klein says is the book he wishes every policymaker would read.
“A bold call to reexamine how our government operates—and sometimes fails to—from President Obama’s former deputy chief technology officer and the founder of Code for America
“Just when we most need our government to work—to decarbonize our infrastructure and economy, to help the vulnerable through a pandemic, to defend ourselves against global threats—it is faltering. Government at all levels has limped into the digital age, offering online services that can feel even more cumbersome than the paperwork that preceded them and widening the gap between the policy outcomes we intend and what we get.”
My plan to go into that issue in more detail got waylaid, so I encourage you to listen to the podcast. The topics covered from week to week vary, and there have been some good episodes on AI technology recently that were quite interesting even though technology is not my friend. LOL
You might want to consider also taking a look at the book by Jennifer Pahlka. It’s a real eye-opener.
Okay, so here’s what happened yesterday when I started a draft of this post. My car was at the dealership for some routine service, as well as fixing a rattle that had recently started. The car had to be left there all day, which wasn’t a problem, but then mid afternoon a rep from the service department texted to let me know that the routine service had been taken care of, the rattle was another matter.
They’d need the car for several days to take the headliner down and find the source of the rattle.
Okay. Don’t panic. The dealership offers loaners, but unfortunately none was available and the rep didn’t know when one might be.
Double yikes! And mild panic.
Because of appointments next week, and then heading out for vacation the following week on Wednesday, I couldn’t be without transportation for more than a day.
So, there was no alternative to getting the car back, rattle and all, late yesterday afternoon. The noise problem can be dealt with after my trip.
For now, perhaps some fun with some cat memes in in order. They always make me smile, and perhaps this one will make you smile, too.
In better news from the home front, there is now a working title for the new book – One More Time. This will be the third book in the One Small Victory series, and I have to thank one of my sons for not only helping with figuring out the title, but also for the great ideas he came up with for plotting the story.
Ironically, I’d considered that same title last week but had trouble coming up with what it would reference. One more time for what?
Part of the reason a title for a WIP is so important for me is because the story has to answer, or respond to, the title in some way. There also has to be a clear idea of how it impacts the central character. What does it mean for her? Without an answer to those two questions last week when I first thought of calling this novel One More Time, the writing had been a struggle.
What a relief to have some clarity.
Thank you David. Not only are you a terrific research assistant, you’re great in brainstorming sessions.
Here’s a scene from the first chapter of the new book. Keep in mind this is rough draft, but I am open to comments and suggestions, especially at the end of the scene. It doesn’t feel complete.
The day couldn’t have been more perfect even had Jenny ordered one from Hallmark. The balloons she carried bounced along in the Spring breeze as she wound her way around headstones until she finally came to Michael’s grave. Her son. Born 1996. Died 2014. A life cut short by a horrific car accident. She never forgot. The pain of loss never went away. She’d just learned to live with it. Put it aside so life could go on. Life for her. For the other kids. And for Steve.
Jenny came here every year on Michael’s birthday. Three years now, but this was the first time she’d opted to bring the balloons. Briefly, when she’d blown them up with the helium at the shop earlier, she’d wondered if they’d mar the solemn atmosphere of the setting, a place with the remains of so many people who’d been loved dearly in their lives. At least that’s what Jenny always thought. Not wanting to entertain the idea that anyone had gone into that other place with nobody to mourn them.
While never fond of flowers, Michael had always liked helium balloons. He’d often come to the shop on Saturdays when he was in high school and help her get birthday arrangements together that included a balloon or two. Then, before she could stop him, he’d take a sip of the gas, making his voice sound like Donald Duck while waddling around the store, arms flapping.
She’d loved that playful side of him, which is why she considered the balloons completely appropriate today.
Jenny pounded the sticks that she’d secured the balloons on into the ground, thankful that the soil was more sand than clay, then sat on the grass that was lush and green after the rains last week.
“Happy birthday, Michael. We’re going to have our usual party later today. Alicia’s baking a cake and…” For a moment her throat closed and wouldn’t let words out.
She tilted her head to the sky and closed her eyes, letting the warmth of the sun and the breeze take her tears away. “Sorry. I didn’t expect that. Not that you probably noticed. Do you ever get to see us?”
She paused, as if half-expecting an answer.
“Sorry. What an absurd question. Absurd to even ask a dead person a question at all.”
Fingering a piece of the grass, Jenny took in a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“Anyway, Scott’s coming home for the summer. It is going to be so good to have him. You would be so proud if you knew how well he’s done in school. If you could see what a fine young man he’s grown up to be.”
Again words got stuck in her throat, like a drain clogged with too many scraps of vegetables. She swallowed hard and flicked an errant tear off her cheek. “Okay. Enough of that. This was supposed to be a visit filled with smiles.
Later, we’ll sing to you when we have cake and ice-cream. Alicia still likes to add candles and have us all blow them out. But the top of the cake is getting pretty crowded. Maybe we should think about the fire hazard.”
Jenny willed the smile to stay on her face, but even the joke about fire wasn’t working. And she was rambling. Swirling emotion always made her do that.
Every time she came to the cemetery and talked to Michael, it was almost as hard as the first time. Was his spirit here somewhere? Did he even hear her? Where had his spirit gone when his body gave it up? Not knowing was torture. Her mother assured her that Michael was in heaven, but Jenny had little faith in the idea of heaven. Where was it? What was it?
“Oh, Michael, I sure wish I could believe. I really want to. I want to believe that you are still existing somewhere. That maybe you’re happy. We are most of the time. Steve has fit into the family well, and your brother and sister really like him. So some days we joke and laugh and have a good time. But never, ever, does that diminish our missing you. We always will.”
That’s all for now. I hope you have a pleasant weekend. Mine is going to be busy. Another son is coming to help with some housekeeping chores that takes a little more muscle-strength than this old body has.