May 2021

Wow, this month absolutely flew by. I’m enjoying fully-vaccinated life — though I don’t really go out that much still, it’s so nice to just, like, go to the dog park and not worry. I went to the Punk Rock Flea Market! I took the bus for the first time in something like… 15 months! I went back to IKEA! I went back to the arcade!

Just a little while longer now until the office reopens, and then I’ll really feel like the world has shifted back into the place where I want it to be.

Other than that, there’s not a lot going on! I’ve shifted to using Habitica again — I used it quite a bit back in 2014, when it was still known as HabitRPG. Really, I think the delineation between habits, recurring tasks, and todos in Habitica is extremely powerful: anything that I would try to build for myself would just be emulating that model, anyway, so I might as well use the real thing and maybe hack on it if there’s something I’d like to see in it. It has evolved so much since 2014, though, that I doubt there’s anything about it that I’d want to touch!

I suppose I also have to mention here that I’ve spent an absurd amount of time reading and learning about investing, a topic which I will only discuss with others if they bring it up first — so I hope that this ends up being the first and last time I mention this thing that’s going to take up a not-insignificant amount of my time!


Here’s this month’s installment of the playlist! I hope you enjoy it. Here’s the article, and here’s the playlist on Spotify:


I think the theme this month for me has been learning AWS. I’ve touched quite a few of the usual suspects: Lambda, EC2, S3, and DynamoDB, Route 53 and Certificate Manager, EventBridge, Amplify, and CloudFront. I want to spend more time with both Cognito and API Gateway — I only did a simple tutorial which kind of breezed through it so far — and I think there’s a lot to be said about the time I’ve spent staring at the billing console so far, trying to make sense of it all.

So a lot of the code I wrote this month outside of work reflects that.

First, I gave Quirk, my Discord chatbot framework, persistent memory using DynamoDB. DynamoDB isn’t really a great tool for this job, but with a little wiggling it, it really is an inexpensive database that can be plugged in and completely forgotten about. I still feel like I’m getting the hang of DynamoDB, but this project was really straight-forward.

I wrote this pretty cool (in my opinion, at least) visualization of the articles I’ve been sharing each week: This is just another way of looking at the roundup articles, which I post every Sunday. The implementation is a React app, which I build and then put the distributed files on a S3 bucket which has a CloudFront distribution pointing at it; for the actual data, I have a Lambda function pull down the raw data from the Pinboard API once per day (using EventBridge) and put it in a file in that same S3 bucket. I think this way is a win-win: I avoid expensive processing and instead cache the results, and Maciej doesn’t ban me from a service that I use quite a bit.

Part of my process for the failbetter redesign meant that I wanted to set up a local WordPress theme development workflow; I landed on DevKinsta, a very new tool which mostly acts as a wrapper for Docker, kind of on a lark. A product of this is that I had to sort of reverse engineer the way their Docker containers work so that I could increase the upload size limit they had set — you can read more about this here.


Though I mentioned 1876 in last month’s article, I gave up on it pretty early in the month. You’ll see that a sort of pattern emerges throughout Vidal’s historical fiction novels; the two I’ve read so far, Burr and Creation, are set against these magnificent, rich, exciting backdrops. I just wasn’t getting a lot out of the stagnant upper class in New York in 1876, so I decided to put the novel down instead.

So next I read Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells, the next Murderbot short story. It’s, of course, more Murderbot, which means that it’s exciting and campy and fun and always feels way too short. I had a very fun time reading it.

Next, I made pretty good progress on Fortress Besieged by Qian Zhongshu. I ended up putting it down after a while, though; I think I just wasn’t in the right mindset to read anything but books about spaceships with guns attached to them.

So, naturally, next I read Providence by Max Barry. This is like, peak Max Barry content. I’ve been a fan of his for a long time — having discovered his work after playing NationStates long ago — and I’ve always really loved the perspective that each has. Each of Barry’s novels is immensely cinematic, and each pause from the action has a distinct purpose behind it — more often than not, for a giggle. This kind of creates a tone that could be interpreted by some as immature, but I really don’t care. I’m always ready to get sucked in to an action novel and I have no pretense about it. Also: it’s a bit of a wild coincidence that Max Barry released this book right at the beginning of the pandemic — it almost begs itself to be read as a COVID-19 allegory, which it clearly could not have been, given the timeline.

After that, I figured, why not give my brain more sci-fi action? So, on to Hail Mary by Andy Weir. This is the third book by Weir that I’ve read, this one about a different celestial body. This book is way more out-there than his other two, but still kind of the same; it was a lovely little romp with some clever hooks, just like you’d expect from Andy Weir.


This month, failbetter published:


  • I typed 980,000 keys and clicked 160,420 times.
  • I listened to 1,635 songs.
  • 16 albums escaped from the Album Gauntlet.
  • I wrote 24,051 words in my personal journal.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. Feel free to get in touch with me any time at