Am I doing too much?

(Disclaimer: This is something of a rant, and was written at 3AM. My apologies if it doesn’t make sense. Feel free to ignore.)

It’s 3AM, and I’m up reading, again. Is it the latest great novel or one of the classics that I enjoy so much? No, it’s research for my latest hobby. It’s lasers this time, but this pattern is far from new.

I’m starting to think I just try to do too much, I go in too many different directions.

I’ve sunk literally thousands of dollars and countless hours in photography, invested more than I would dare guess in hardware and software in various software development projects. I’ve collected everything from coins to bayonets (swords too). Now, all I’m thinking about is lasers; and I’m not talking about pointers, but the kind of lasers that light a match in an instant or burn a hole through cardboard and plastic.

Lasers at this power aren’t cheap, quite complex, and extremely dangerous (not to mention it’s a felony to import 99% of the ones on the market into the US). Sounds perfect for me, right?

In my typical fashion, to justify the expenses and time investment, I start looking for a return – I start working on a business plan. It’s starts with a basic idea, then a domain name or three, a quick(-ish) web page, and weeks of losing sleep to get everything ready. That start, is also normally the end. I get busy at work which leads to me thinking about other things and soon several weeks have gone by and I’m looking at a new, more exciting hobby or project. Some hobbies (mostly photography) come back, most others don’t.

Wash, rinse, repeat – ad nauseam.

It’s always educational – I always manage to get something new out of a hobby; but at what cost? Losing the money isn’t too big of a deal for me (though moreso in the last couple years than the past), but the wasted time is another story. Few people fully grasp how valuable and fleeting time is – especially with those you care about.

So here it is, time I should be resting up for all things I need to do to keep my life together, and I’m making a list of all the things I need to buy and think about for my laser projects:

  • Buying a Laser Power Meter
  • Buying a bunch of DVD/Blu-ray sleds to harvest the laser diodes
  • Designing a custom power regulator (driver) using Arduino, because a simple non-IC, non-programmable setup is just too boring
  • Getting a rough model of my custom host designed in whatever CAD software I have handy
  • Figuring out which lens I need for each color (and how bad of an idea it would be to a 650nm lens for a 405nm diode)
  • Ordering lenses, modules, and generic hosts (until the custom ones are ready) from China
  • Looking for PCB manufactures that are willing to do small runs (and should I do SMT or THT)
  • Reading through FDA and US Customs rules and policies (I really would hate to go to jail over a laser…)
  • Do I need to get an attorney involved (as I really would hate to be sued…)
  • Or maybe I could just contract all this out to China and have them build what I want and legally import them (which leads to a rather scary list, trust me)

Over the last few weeks I’ve learned more about safety regulations, customs operations, electronics, and manufacturing than I thought I would ever know.

The cost this time? I’ve got a huge project at work that is way behind schedule, which is bad. But there’s bigger things going on: within the next month my wife will be giving birth, and I’m just now realizing how unprepared I am for it.

It’s 3AM, and I’m lost in a world of lasers.