Learning to “fail fast”

FAILURE | Greater Greater Washington’s David Alpert wrote a piece for the Post on the cycle of government programs and the accumulation of inefficiencies after each cycle:

Here’s a common pattern: An agency spends a few years working on a project that could improve residents’ lives. Procurement delays and construction issues take extra time. The project opens, there’s controversy and people call for changes or say the project was a waste. Public employees get the message. Next time, they spend even more time designing the project.

Are we on a cycle in which everything government does happens slower and slower?

He goes on to suggest that, while we can’t necessarily ward off failure, we can learn to “fail fast” and move on. It’s interesting to consider his frame applied to philanthropy. Does philanthropy slow down over time? Is it willing to admit defeat, learn lessons, and move on? (WaPo, 4/15)

TAXES | In an op-ed for the Chronicle of Philanthropy, philanthropist Earle Mack talks about how the proposed limit to the charitable tax deduction would negatively affect his own giving. It’s a compelling read, especially considering that Mack represents the type of philanthropist whose personal giving is in the millions (Chronicle, 4/7):

It’s not that I object to paying my fair share. People like me can certainly afford to do that, and I think it’s the right thing to do, especially if that’s what it takes to keep our economy and country sound.

But there are better ways to go about it than abandoning a system that has worked so well for us for almost 100 years.

- Related: Ever wonder where your federal tax dollars go? The White House has a calculator that will show you. (Note: your tax money is not being spent on website maintenance, because at publishing time the page link is experiencing problems. I assume the link will once again work shortly.)

TRANSIT | The Columbia Pike street car project is expected to create an economic boom in Arlington and Fairfax, reduce congestion (of the traffic variety), and allow for the preservation of affordable housing. But the project failed to secure as much as $75 million in expected federal funding. (WaPo, 4/15) I think Galaxy Quest can teach us a lesson here.

- The H Street street car line in D.C. still isn’t open for some reason, but the city is already mocking up possibilities for a Union Station-Georgetown line. (GGW, 4/12)

EDUCATION | Jay Matthews’ fifteenth annual index of top high schools is out. Accompanying the index is a piece about how bureaucracy is threatening to close some of the country’s best public schools – and how it could happen here, too. (WaPo, 4/15)

- Students leaving mid-year raise questions for charter school (Examiner, 4/15)

- Should charters also be neighborhood schools? (GGE, 4/15)

LITERACY | We generally talk about education outcomes by looking at youth. But here’s an important story from the other side – how illiteracy affects adults. (WAMU, 3/30)

HOUSING | The federal Fair Housing Act goes a long way to make housing discrimination illegal. But there are a few categories it doesn’t cover. In many states, it is legal to refuse housing based on marital status, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Believe it or not, much of our region allows discrimination in these categories. (Atlantic, 4/15)

DUMMIES | One of my high school math teachers had a favorite metaphor about learning. He’d tell us that if you want to rob an ATM, you have to get a truck, attach a chain around the machine, and hit the gas. Basically, there’s no easy way to get what you want. Well, these guys took Mr. Corrigan’s method literally…and failed. So, I guess he was right! I’ve yet to determine if these were classmates of mine. (WTOP, 4/15)


I think it is safe to say that Tax Day is a stress elevator. Here are ten instant stress busters.

And since laughing out loud (or LOLing, as the interwebs call it) is one of the techniques listed, maybe this video will help. It’s the Gorillage People singing YMCA!

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