Time Magazine Cover. Photograph by Stephen Voss for TIME
At the height of the crisis that was the roll out of Healthcare.gov, while everyone else was talking about the political fallout and how the failure would effect the future of the Obama Presidency and Health Care in general, I was consumed with one basic question: What went wrong and how would they fix it. The new Time Magazine article Obama’s Trauma Team finally gave me the insight I was looking for.
I’m by trade a software developer. I’m currently the AVP of Information Technology at my company. We have a small software development team which I have been at the head of for about a decade. Our team builds data driven web applications for our enterprise along with a small eCommerce type solution. The most striking thing about the article is that the issues facing the healthcare.gov website are identical to problems our team faces every day. We handle them better at times than the government contractors did and worse at other times, but essentially the issues weren’t anything unusual in software development. The real nature of the failure seems to be lack of cohesive oversight and management of the process which is always critical and more so when you are working with a number of disconnected organizations all involved in building of the site.
What Abbott could not find, however, was leadership. He says that to this day he cannot figure out who was supposed to have been in charge of the HealthCare.gov launch. Instead he saw multiple contractors bickering with one another and no one taking ownership for anything. Someone would have to be put in charge, he told Zients. Beyond that, Abbott recalls, “there was a total lack of urgency” despite the fact that the website was becoming a national joke and crippling the Obama presidency.
The other major failure of the launch was one that many companies make all the time with their launches. A failure to launch in a way that allows for a ramp up of traffic to the site instead of just turning on the faucet and hoping for the best. This is a challenge and one that I have fought in just about every major project I’ve been involved with.
I never really had a doubt that the site would be fixed, there was too much riding on it working and as the article quotes Mikey Dickerson “It’s Just a Website. We’re Not Going to the Moon.” The article is full of great tips for how to react in a tech crisis and I found that a great many of the methods sync with my own about how such drills should be done. If you are at all interested in the subject of how they turned a site which couldn’t even handle a few thousand visitors into a site that could handle hundreds of thousands of visitors and sign up millions of people all in the span of around 6 weeks read the story.
So after a magic night at Disney we headed back to the Magic Kingdom on Friday for a few hours. The weather was really brisk and our first stop after taking an open air boat from the Wilderness Lodge to the park was to stop and buy sweatshirts to wear under our windbreakers. This accomplished we could start our day. Early in the day we took a few minutes to learn how to use the Fastpass+ service associated with our Magic Bands. This is a fantastic concept. You simply use your mobile phone to launch the My Disney Experience App and then you select up to three attractions you want to visit that day and schedule a one hour time period when you want to visit that attraction and boom..express access when you show up. We originally only really had two places in mind but walking around we remembered a third and I quickly found the ride on my phone and checked and we could get a time just a few minutes from then. I selected it and of we went. Amazing. We had another great day at the park. My wife talking me into buying season passes is the best thing I ever let myself get talked into.
I really didn’t know what to expect from visiting the Magic Kingdom at night but whatever it was it didn’t come close to matching the reality.
The weather cleared up at the exact right time and we walked into the park right at the start of the Electric Light Parade.
Every year about this time I am counting vacation days to see if I have enough time left in the year to use them all. I usually don’t because I am notoriously bad at taking vacation. This year was no different and even after taking the next two weeks off I’m losing two days at the end of the year.
The video below contains a few scenes from my first day off. Just a little leisurely breakfast, some shopping for Christmas dinner and of course Nutmeg watching. I hope you get a little enjoyment out of watching if not as much as I did living it.
This American Life Logo
A few years ago while driving around town on a Saturday afternoon, my wife and I tuned the radio to NPR and caught the first few minutes of the radio show This American Life. The narrator, Ira Glass, has a very distinctive voice and a dry humor that we just didn’t get. We turned the show off after a few minutes. For years after that any time I would hear This American Life on the radio I would change the station. It just wasn’t my thing.
This past year while listening to podcasts on my Nexus smartphone I came across This American Life again and listened to an Episode. It was Episode 505 Use Only as Directed. The episode is a detailed look at the potential dangers in exceeding the recommended dosage for the pain reliever acetaminophen even in small amounts. The story was fascinating and I realized that the show wasn’t, as I previously thought, just Ira Glass talking for the entire hour. He introduces the topic, usually with an anecdote and then introduces the producer for the segment who narrates their story. He comes back between acts and at the end to wrap up and give the credits.
Having gotten hooked on this episode I listened to even more episode and the more I listened to them the more addicted I became to the show. Along the way I discovered Episode 14 Accidental Documentaries which includes a very touching story about Ira Glass’ father who was briefly in radio before Ira was born. This story as well as others gradually changed my tolerance for Ira Glass’ distinctive radio style from tolerance to genuine appreciation. His dry humor and disconcerting vocal delivery (for me anyway) became a strength of the show instead of something I could live with.
The show is truly an American treasure. The stories are fascinating and well produced. Rich in details and carefully structured. Some episodes feature multiple segments along a central theme some are full episodes about one topic. Whether it is about a Car Dealership or Hostages from a country I’d never heard of, or a physician that murdered his father I’ve yet to hear a story that didn’t entertain and educate me.
I have to cut this short now because I have 18 years of This American Life to catch up on. If you aren’t a fan you have a lot to catch up on as well.
I’m not a Don Banks fan, he gets it wrong about as often as he gets it right in my opinion, but his article about the Jacksonville Jaguars and Gus Bradley is a good read and comes off as fair and optimistic about the future of the franchise. He gets extra points for not rolling out the usual bullshit rumors about the franchise moving.
Getting better in Jacksonville isn’t a particularly high bar to shoot for, of course, after last year’s 2-14 nose-dive. But with Bradley in charge, and his players on board, the Jaguars have made a change that might finally make a difference. — Don Banks
Immediately following the very disappointing 27-3 loss to the Dolphins in the preseason opener, Bradley gave a post game speech that was inspiring. It wasn’t sugar-coated it pointed out the mistakes but stressed they were things that were in their control, challenged them to fix those things and get better. He was pumped up after a loss not because he was in denial or lying to his players but because he is consistent in his message that the goal is to get better every day.
Gus Bradley seems like the real deal. I hope that this plays out this season. The early games are likely to be ugly hopefully by the second half of the season we will see a young team coming together and showing promise for next season.
One day a few weeks ago quite by happenstance I discovered that the Alhambra Dinner Theatre was currently performing Driving Miss Daisy. I am a huge fan of the movie staring Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy. As luck would have it I was looking for something to do for my wife’s [redacted]th birthday. This seemed perfect.
It has been many years since we went to the Alhambra, since before they changed ownership and re-opened in 2009. Before that we had seen a number of shows there including 1776 and A Christmas Carol.
As usual the Theatre, which has been in operation in Jacksonville for 46 years, did not disappoint. The food and service was excellent and the wine we chose in the dark with little to go on turned out great as well.
In this production Daisy is played by Michael Learned of The Waltons fame. She has big shoes to fill being compared to Jessica Tandy but she pulls off the role beautifully. Lance E. Nichols carries the role of Hoke with great poise and humor. Together the chemistry is fantastic as it has to be for this story to work.
The story of Daisy and her reluctant acceptance of an African American chauffeur after wrecking her car and losing her ability to drive is told in this version in a series of short vignettes with only Learned, Nichols and Michael Edward Hodge (as Boolie) in the cast. Two stools represent the various cars where a large part of the story takes place. The sets are minimal but the acting was superb and the story is as always tremendously compelling. Filled with humor and with great sadness this production does great honor to this fine drama and made for a wonderful experience and a night I hope my wife will remember for many birthday’s to come.
We have already purchased tickets for our next Alhambra production Murder Among Friends staring Loretta Swit. The ADT is truly a Jacksonville treasure.