Weeknotes #016: Stay at home

What I did in the 52nd week of 2020


I continued last weeks work on an emergency brake feature.

We considered where it should go, either nestled in an existing repo or as its own thing. In the end I rolled it out as its own thing. The time/effort cost to set up a new repository was small and we already needed to separate some of the hosting. I liked the idea of this being something that sits apart from our daily work but is well referenced in our docs and team manual. A big red “Break in case of emergency box”.

At GOV.UK I have mostly work on things that already exist, so this was a rare change to practise setting things up from scratch. We are using the government Platform as a Service (PaaS) for hosting, and I had only really set something up on there once before. That was back during the blurry days of our early coronavirus response. So this was a chance to remind myself and consolidate a bit of knowledge.

The PaaS is something GDS owns and maintains, aimed at making it easier for parts of government to deploy, host and maintain services. It does this very well. It wraps around Amazon Web Services (AWS), and makes it easy to do things like scale your application or manage billing. Boring magic!

We use tools like Cloud Foundry and its CLI, and automate deploys with concourse. So my week was a lot of writing config YAML, getting reviews and testing it against staging.

I know I complained about infrastructure stuff a couple of weeks ago, but I actually quite enjoyed this. Shh, do not tell anyone.

We also changed up our 2nd line shifts and on call rota this week. Usually you rotate on for a full week, but given it is the holidays and the amount going on in government right now, that all seemed a bit unfair. Instead we are all doing a day here and there to share it around. That took me out of the team for a day this week.


Reading momentum continued. Back at the start of the year I told Goodreads I would try and read 40 books. I then decided I did not like Goodeads and made this blog to track the things I was logging there.

For the majority of the year I have been so far behind 40 that I largely gave up on the target and forgot about it. However with the end in sight I was surprised to find I am actually quite close!

The moment I realised this, I ran straight into Marilyn Strathern’s summary of Goodhart’s Law:

When a measure becomes a target, it ceases to be a good measure.

… I started looking for short books to cram them in!

Doing it for the numbers seems to miss the point. I want the numbers to be evidence of what I read, not drive the reading! So I stopped grabbing the first 3 hour read I could find, and started thinking about what I actually want to read and finish before the year is out.

That mix saw me chomp though some of David Attenborough’s early works - his zoological knowledge shines on paper, perhaps more than when presenting. He is an entertaining writer too.

I also read Atomic Habits, and started “The book of Trespass”.

I did most of this whilst playing Cyberpunk 2077, which I played to completion because it cost a fair wedge - but I have decided was rubbish. By the end I had the game pretty much on mute whilst Attenborough recounted earlier life, both his and the planet’s.


Not a lot else going on. I work, I read or listen to books, I play games, I sleep. A bit of cooking and DIY in between. Outside is cold, dark and uninviting. Walks are not as appealing as they were in summer so I have been doing fewer.

Covid cases are also very high. So I think I am fine to be staying at home.

Listened to

Oh no! For years and years I have chomped through podcasts every day of the week.

However I have traded that eartime for books this week. This is the longest stretch without feeding that addiction.

My feeds swell with new episodes. Watching their intruging titles pile up, all overlooked delights is strangely stressful.

I think I will have to brutally prune that list in the new year if I want to keep up the reading.

| Huw