This is the fourth post of my series of monthly review posts for 2024. Other entries in the series:


I'm now properly bedded into my new position in Technology Operations. As the Principal Engineer of Platforms, I work across our three cloud-based platforms: AWS, Containers (it's on AWS, but we call it a separate platform), and Azure. We also have a blossoming FinOps team looking into how we can run a leaner operation across our estate - rightsizing, Savings Plans and Reserved Instances, and all that stuff. Day to day, I provide engineering management to the teams in this area. I've integrated into the organisation's various assurance and governance forums to help bring a cloud-native eye to our patterns and designs. Naturally, with the future sale of the company (subject to regulatory approval), the entire organisation is thinking about what this will mean, which is consuming a lot of time at the moment. The part of the role I'm enjoying the most is handling technical escalations when we form an ensemble of platform and application team members and work closely together to solve a problem.

AWS Summit London

On the 24th, I hurried down to London (no thanks to a last-minute train cancellation!) to attend the AWS Summit hosted at ExCeL. I was awed by the scale of the event. I was grateful for the opportunity to catch up with colleagues old and new, although I didn't get around to seeing everyone I'd planned on seeing; such is the nature of these events. The breakout sessions I attended focused on serverless and the tradeoffs between choreography and orchestration - for what workloads is a distributed, event-based and loosely-coupled serverless architecture more appropriate? On the other hand, what workloads are better fits for orchestrated workflow with step functions? These sessions were insightful and will help me advise on the nuances of either approach at work.

Side Project: Pick'Em App

The Pickem Application is functionally complete and was successfully used to make predictions and score for the AEW Dynasty Pay-Per-View event. Remarkably, most of the complexity lives on the admin side of the app (something only I'd use), which is where the complex form state logic lives, for creating matches. It was worth spending the effort to develop this capability (and my understanding) in the Vue app. Unfortunately, I didn't get the time to write the final blog post in the series this month about developing the UI, so I'll have to pick that up next month. The application cost me 62c to run in April: 50c for Route 53, 1c for S3, 1c for API Gateway, 10c VAT. Not too shabby! AEW Double or Nothing broadcasts May 26th, so we'll be dusting off the app once again next month to see who's best at predictions!


Hide by Tracy Clark

'Hide' by Tracy Clark is a crime novel that follows Detective Harriet Foster as she returns to work in the Chicago Police Department. On her first case back, she partners with the 'old school' and repugnant Detective Lonergan on a serial killer case. She later re-partners with Detective Li, delving into the dark background of an artist and her troubled twin brother. I enjoyed the pace of this book. The mystery was solid, if a little predictable. Strong character work propels the story forward. Admittedly, my police procedural reading is of the urban fantasy variety; that said, I'll continue with this series.

Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Scott

Radical Candor has been on my to-read pile for a long time. It's entirely my fault for putting it off so long.

Things I like from the book include the phrase "politely persistent" and the advice to "hold a hug for at least six seconds". On the latter, I have a similar rule of holding silence in a meeting for six seconds before speaking to give others the space to speak first.

Surprisingly only a small chunk of this book is about the technique of radical candor, most of the book I'd say falls into general management advice. It's a good read, but different to what I expected. Scott places lots of focus on what happens when radical candor goes wrong, with descriptive terms such as "ruinous empathy", and advice on how to better tailor the message to be delivered.

The best advice from the book is to start with yourself: model the behaviour you'd like to see. This doesn't mean start being "radically candid" to everyone and anyone, rather, it's about inviting others to challenge you and being receptive to that feedback. Next, move on to giving praise. By doing so you demonstrate that this isn't about punishment or punching downwards, it's from a genuine perspective of caring and wanting a culture where everyone lifts each other up.

1666: Plague, War, and Hellfire by Rebecca Rideal

1666 was a turbulent year in England. There was the Great Plague, the Second Anglo-Dutch War was in full swing, and the Great Fire of London ravaged the wooden medieval structures. But it was also a time of scientific and artistic discovery—Milton's Paradise Lost, Newton's work on the force of gravity, and Wren's plans to build a new London from stone. This book remains readable and relies heavily on the writings of Pepys in many places. It covers the rather interesting pandemic and firefighting strategies of the time, delving into the court politics of the Restoration - particularly the Anglo-Dutch relations, given William of Orange's later Reign following the Great Revolution. I didn't know that the wealthy effectively fled the city during the Plague or that pulling down buildings was a common technique to stop fires from spreading.

Unlawful Killings: Life, Love and Murder: Trials at the Old Bailey by Wendy Joseph KC

Her Honour Wendy Joseph KC is a Judge at the Central Criminal Court ("the Old Bailey", a Crown Court which hears criminal cases). The workings of the court are exposed through a series of fictionalised trials, covering the selection of juries, the complexities that emerge during the hearing of a case, the role of a Judge in a trial, and how sentencing works. Although delivered with a nod-and-wink to the courtroom dramas on TV, this is grounded in reality. Courts in the UK are overworked and underfunded, with a case backlog that is several years in length. Government cuts have severely restricted legal aid, limiting the capacity for those most in need to access legal services. Amongst these challenges, Justice must not only be done but must also be seen to be done. The judiciary is one of the lesser-understood branches of the State, and I hope books like this can change that.

Other Media

Fallout, on Amazon Prime, is a fantastic piece of telly. I particularly enjoyed the '50s throwback soundtrack and how it's faithful to the source material. The TV series takes place 200 years after a nuclear war in the late 2070s and focuses on three characters: Lucy, from Vault 33, Maximus from the Brotherhood of Steel, and Cooper, a former Hollywood actor turned radiation-afflicted bounty hunter. To say any more gives things away, so just go and watch it.

I recently returned to the Crash Bandicoot N-Sane Trilogy on my Steam Deck, having played it when it was initially released on PS4. This is a remake of the first three Crash Bandicoot games from the Playstation era. All three were games I played extensively in my childhood and have fond memories of. These games are still fun to play, with the first being the most challenging, the third having the most variety, and the second being my favourite as the purest platforming experience. Come to think of it, I never finished Crash 4...