Sunday musings

About a month ago I was starting to recognize (OK, Robin was pointing them out) that I was getting a tad burnt out. I was getting to bed after 1am, sometimes 2am (and up at 6); the laptop was starting to occupy increasing amounts of family time (and if the laptop wasn’t nearby, then the phone – with Gmail client – was); weekends too often meant “catching up on e-mail” and “checking the forums and I’d pretty much cut back on all non-work and non-family activities. (I stepped down as chair of the Naperville Democrats last fall, I’ve dramatically cut back on the writing I have done for the American Bar Association for 14 years, and I’ve been MIA at a number of recent social gatherings of friends because I felt guilty for leaving Robin and the kids at home alone.)

This isn’t to complain: I have never had more fun at a job than I’m having at FeedBurner: sure, the pace is frenetic, but the team is firing on all cylinders and we just continue to plow ahead. (And wait until you hear what we have cooked up for the remainder of 2007: it’s big!) But it was starting to be 100% of what I was doing, and that’s not healthy for me, for the family, or even for the company. A stressed and exhausted Rick is neither a productive nor particularly fun to be around Rick.

I’m slowly getting my bearings. Two weeks ago we headed up to a ski shop in St. Charles to update our winter wardrobe, as we’re heading to Breckenridge in two weeks to go skiing with my parents. While up there, we drove right by the Home Brew Shop, which we’d last visited in 2001. I used to enjoy making beer — back in Massachusetts, it was a pretty regular hobby. But then we had kids, moved a couple times, and never seemed to find the time. If you don’t know, brewing beer is a pretty involved process: day 1 is probably 4-5 hours from start to finish, then you let it ferment for a week or so, then the process of siphoning it into a bottling container and bottling it is another couple hours. Then you wait another couple weeks, and if all went well, you’ve got a great beer.

At Robin’s urging, I picked up ingredients for a new beer. It consumed my evening, but it was actually invigorating: I wasn’t thinking about feeds, wasn’t worrying about how many e-mails were piling (or had piled) up… I was just hanging in the kitchen, making beer. And for the remainder of the week while it was fermenting, I had something to think about that wasn’t job-related. It was a nice diversion.

That batch (a Pale Ale) is in the bottles now, and should be ready in another week. Today I brewed an Irish Red, and as with most things, I was able to apply the lessons from mistakes I’d made with the first batch and made a better beer (at least so far – the proof will be a few weeks away!). I started right after lunch, and I’m just now done: the beer’s in the carboy, the pot’s cleaned up, and the kitchen is (mostly) clean again. That was preceded by an hour of playing Lego Star Wars with Robby while his brother was at a birthday party – which means I got some good family time in while also vegging out. Highly recommended (on all fronts).

Not really sure why I’m documenting this, other than to say that it’s felt good to start working on non-work stuff again. FeedBurner will continue to be a 100-hour plus week – that’s the life of a start-up, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. But I’m starting to reclaim some of the remaining hours, and that’s good. The digital SRL I got for Christmas is also renewing my photography obsession, which has been a lot more fun than I’d expected.

On a not at all related note (I titled this post ‘musings’ for a reason), I was talking with Hiram last night, who asked whether I had a good sense of what people actually wanted to read on my site. His take was that I’d evolved from being split 50/50 politics and tech to being about 5:1 tech to politics. I don’t pay close enough attention to my stats (yes, that’s more than mildly ironic) to really have a good sense of which subjects people read more than others, so if you’re interested in sharing your opinion about what topics you want me to cover, feel free to share them in the comments. Can’t promise I’ll change my focus (er, or lack thereof), but I’d actually like knowing what y’all expect to see here.

Comments are open, let me know what’s on your mind. (Lord knows mine’s particularly all over the place tonight!)