Rey Bango

Web developer, honey badger

Being in a Coffin..Sorta.

Since having my gall bladder removed last year, I’ve had this nagging pain in my right side rib cage area. It’s a consistent dull pain which I was told should go away a couple of months after my surgery. Well it hasn’t and after an ultrasound and an endoscopy (tube down the throat), it was time to pull out the big gun. Today I had an MRI and it was not fun.

The Machine

MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging and to be honest, I don’t know how it works. I just know that it’s one of the best ways to look inside the human body without having surgery. If you’ve never had an MRI, it can be a bit of an experience. The machine is rather large and circular in shape. If you look at the picture I included, you can see what it looks like. Now you see that tiny little donut hole in the center? That’s where you go in! Yep, they stick you in that hole to be able to scan the body parts they need. At 6’4″ and 235lbs, I’m a pretty big guy so being squeezed into that little orifice was, how should I say, THE SUCK!

As they slide you into this tube feet first, you have two choices. You can either put your hands behind you (like you’re raising both hands) or you can put them at your side. I chose the latter because it was just more comfortable, especially because I had an IV in my arm. The dude then covered my eyes with a small towel and slapped some headphones on my ears so I could listen to music. As I’m being pushed in, I could see slightly from under the towel and that’s when it hit me that I was INSIDE THIS INSANELY TIGHT, SMALL TUBE WITH NO ABILITY TO MOVE!!

A Coffin

Now, I’m by no means claustrophobic but being in there made me feel like I was in a coffin and it was the creepiest feeling ever. For about 30 seconds, I considered asking them to pull me out but I composed myself, closed my eyes and focused on the music. From there things went fairly smoothly until about 10 minutes before the end of the procedure at which point, it started getting incredibly warm. I had an imaging device sitting on top of my chest and every time they used it, I could feel the heat on my chest. Couple that with the blankets they placed on me and I was a little more than toasty. :P

The Experience

Would I do this again? Hell yes! The alternative to this is to have someone cut me open and poke around. As a general rule, I try to avoid having sharp instruments opening me up so while being confined truly sucked, the alternative is far worse. Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure out what’s causing the pain and I can plan out my next steps.

I’m 43 Years Young Today

Yep, today is my birthday and I turn 43 but I genuinely don’t feel it. Not sure if my body is holding up well or if it’s my sunny disposition but I regularly hear guys complaining about getting old; I just don’t feel it.

It’s not to say that I don’t get the occasional pain here and there or that my metabolism is still running at rabbit speed (my belly can attest to that). I just honestly feel young. :)

I also feel really fortunate to have made it this far and been able to experience so many awesome things. I have an incredible wife and four amazing daughters. I’m in a really good space.

So if this is what getting old is like, then I’m looking forward to it. :)

Something Just Came Over Me…

I did an interview with James Senior on Microsoft’s Channel 9. We chatted about Script Junkie, the site I manage for Microsoft. We also chatted about the jQuery conference and how awesome it was going to be. Then, in the last 30 seconds of the interview, something just came over me. Well, Ralph Whitbeck though it would be awesome to create a video of that “special part” and air it to the jQuery Conference attendees. Here is his handy work:

Mourning the Death of my Dad.

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It’s been several days since I heard the news that my dad had passed away and the pain isn’t any better. I have some good moments and I’m thankful for my amazing wife Maggie who has supported me during the bad times. The passing of my dad is bittersweet. The last couple of weeks of his life truly sucked with obvious signs that the cancer had really started to do it’s dirty work. He had already lost mobility on his left side due to the tumor in his brain and slowly everything else just started to shutdown. His passing, while painful, was the best thing that could’ve happened. His quality of life was just in the tubes and I could see in my dad’s eyes that he didn’t want this. Being an invalid was the last thing he ever wanted.

Cancer Sticks

It wasn’t supposed to be this way. My dad was my mentor. As Joe Stump said, he was the man that made me a man. The thought of him passing was something that I envisioned when he was 90 or 100, not 66. And not this way.

How could my dad who came by boat from Cuba, battled for the freedom of that same country (gun in hand at that), served in the U.S. Military, made a life, raised 3 sons, built a thriving business and finally had 26 acres to retire on in North Carolina be gone? My dad was supposed to be in North Carolina now with my mom & they’re 4 dogs tending to his house, harassing my aunt, brother & sis-in-law and just being a grandfather.

Blaming Phillip Morris, USA for producing the cancer sticks that my dad smoked for at least 40 years is just too easy. That’s low-hanging fruit. You guys & everyone that helps you run your business, from your investors to the janitor that cleans up at the end of the day, royally suck. A lesser man might wish you the same that my father has endured but that’s not who I am. I can only pray that your families don’t endure what we’ve had to.

Coming Home

I was in New York, about 20 minutes from hosting a meetup, when I got the news. The only word I could use to describe the moment was “confusion”. I honestly felt completely disoriented. I have to thank Justin Scott, Fraser Kelton & Alex Iksold for stepping in and helping me gain some sense of focus. They took the lead while I spoke with my family and determined whether to stay or not. My decision to stay wasn’t trivial but ultimately to right one. There was no reason to run out. I had so much time with my dad, especially in the last several weeks, that I didn’t feel I needed to see his body. If my dad would’ve been with me, he would’ve told me to “be a man and do the presentation”! That’s what he would’ve wanted and that’s what I did.

Being alone in NYC for the night, I found solace via my family. My cell phone was my lifeline.

Getting back was no easier. I had to explain to my children that their grandfather had passed which was challenging due to some things going on in their lives, to which my wife & I were trying to be sensitive. I can’t describe how immensely difficult it is to try and explain death to a child. Just a couple of days before his death, I was letting them know that there grandfather would be passing away soon and then it hits. And due to circumstances, I couldn’t tell them all at once but instead had to spread it out over the whole week.

mom

Then I wanted time with my mom to make sure she was okay. My mom is amazing. She’s endured so much and she’s such a strong woman. She’s continued to put on that “I’m okay” facade but I know she’s hurting beyond anything I could imagine. All I can do is wait until she needs me. Until she decides she needs her sons to support her. And we’ll be here for you mom.

And the same goes for my brothers. Two of the toughest guys I know. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see them cry or if they’ll want to talk about it. It’s tough being a Bango man. My dad always taught us to be tough guys. But we all know we’re here for each other.

It Finally Hits Me

Yesterday was so tough. My dad was in my thoughts all day. I cried a lot. I think everything just finally caught up. I knew it would and that’s fine. If I keep it bottled up, it’ll be worse. Even writing this makes me well up. But it helps, helps me to express some feelings that I can’t often verbalize. Not sure why but I find writing a better outlet sometimes.

Something that Joe Stump said has just stuck with me and that’s:

Ain’t no shame in crying over the man that made you a man.

God, ain’t that the truth. Thank you Joe.

Along those lines, I have to thank my Twitter friends whose outpouring of support and love has been a big help. Thank you.

I’ve been trying to keep myself busy. I went to the beach today w/ my wife & baby, just to get away. It was really nice and relaxing and I didn’t have to think too much, which in itself was good.

I can’t say that the pain is any less. If anything, it’s actually worse because I know I’ll never hear my dad say “Como esta mi hijo” again. I can still hear him say that in my head though. Clearly. I’m clinging to that big time right now. His tone was always so reassuring to me & I don’t want to give it up. I have to be realistic (which totally sucks) in that I’ll be in pain for quite some time. I have to be strong though. My dad would’ve wanted me to.

I miss you dad.

Very sad day for my family.

Tonight I had to do something incredibly hard. Something that is immensely difficult and with no easy way of doing so. I had to tell my children that their grandfather will be passing away soon.

Some may know from my tweets via Twitter that my father has been battling cancer. Unfortunately, his battle will be coming to an end soon. His cancer has aggressively spread, even forming a tumor in his brain. For months, he’s been slowly losing his motor skills but during the last several weeks has progressively & severely gotten worse. This past week had been especially hard since it was the first time I was unable to understand anything he said, his speech brought down to an unrecognizable mumble. When I saw him tonight, I realized the end is near. I can just see it in his eyes and his lack of coherence.

I truly didn’t want to have my children see him in this state but they insisted, wanting to see the grandfather they adored & tell him that they loved him before he passed on. It’s an unimaginably hard decision to make and even more difficult to do, but I also know the closeness my children have with their grandfather and how important it was for them to be there. My dad had a brief moment of lucidity where he recognized his grandchildren and gave them each a kiss. My mom asked if he loved them and nodded yes. When the girls left the room, I cried.

I’ll be talking with my children about all of this during the week and helping them cope with whatever questions or emotions they may have. I’m happy that the last thing they got from their grandfather was an “I love you”, even if it was just a nod.

Change has Come!

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7 Things You May (Or May Not) Know About Me

Darn it! I was hoping I might escape this meme but my friend Paul Rouget nabbed me!

The rules:

  1. Link to your original tagger(s) and list these rules in your post.
  2. Share seven facts about yourself in the post.
  3. Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the
    links to their blogs.
  4. Let them know they've been tagged.

Seven things:

  1. I have 4 children (all girls) ages 15, 13, 10 & 8 months. They're the loves of my life.

    mygirls

  2. My wife and I met on Match.com. After my divorce, the last thing I was interested in was the club scene so I gave online dating a try. I almost gave up on it after a couple of not-so-great dates and the date with my wife was going to be my last. As luck would have it, I met the most awesome woman in the world and the rest is history.

    us

  3. When I was younger, I aspired to be a comic strip artist. I had the talent to draw but I think I was entirely too logical so the humor aspect of that just wasn't there. Bloom County is my all time favorite strip and I think Berke Breathed is a comic genius.
  4. Baseball was my passion and I played the sport for 12 years. I started off as a catcher and then shifted to first base. I hit .634 my sophomore year and .585 my junior year before getting into an argument with the head coach and skipping my senior year. I ran cross-country my senior year and won Outstanding Cross Country athelete.
  5. The first language that I coded in professional was a dBase-like compiled variant called Clipper. It was PC-based and I truly loved it. My friend Tony DelCampo was my mentor and taught me a ton of coding principles that no college class bothered to cover. I actually learned about OOP using Clipper because there was a 3rd party lib called Classy which provided OOP capability.
  6. I didn't have a girlfriend until I was a junior in high school. I was WAY TOO introverted and had an extremely hard time socializing, especially with girls.
  7. I've competed nationally in paintball and took second place at a major tournament.
    paintball

Seven people who shall also have to go through this harrowing
experience:

  1. John Resig, because a little part of me wishes I could be as cool and collected as he is when put on a panel.
  2. Nick Nguyen, because if I didn't antagonize my boss, then how can I sleep at night! ;)
  3. Carsten Book (AKA TomCat), because he has the coolest nickname ever!
  4. Brian King, because Brian impressed the crap out of me at Add-on-Con and I want to make sure more people know about him!
  5. Karen Prescott, because she continues to be patient with me even after I ask silly questions.
  6. Fred Wenzel, because I know he'll always hook me up if I need some coding help
  7. Sean Alamares, because he's a cool cat.

Thoughts and Goals for 2009

As I begin 2009, I've been pondering quite a bit about which direction I'd like to take my career in. At the age of 40, I'm certainly not a spring chicken but I do feel that I'm at a great point in my life where I have a tremendous amount of experience while still feeling the fire to learn more. For the last 19 years or so, my career has revolved around development. Basically, I've been a coder most of my career and apart from some short stints in a business development role, I've really focused on the development side of things. This isn't a bad thing by any means and I think I've been fairly successful at it. I do feel, though, that it's time to expand a bit and 2009 will be the year to do it.

Product Management

I want to get more involved in product management. Taking a product from inception to production is REALLY challenging. I'm not talking about coding it. I'm talking about overseeing the process of taking an idea and helping drive it to market. That means more interaction with users, marketing, biz dev, PR and media.

The fact that I have a strong technology background, in my opinion, will help by being able to understand the bottlenecks in the process and helping any team that I work with overcome those hurdles.

My new boss, Nick Nguyen, has already started mentoring me on this and I believe he'll be able to teach me quite a bit.

Technology

My bread-and-butter has always been my technical side and I can't ever see that going away (although diminishing in importance slightly).

Firefox Add-ons

Apart from a focus on product management, I think that becoming “Mark Finkle” knowledgeable in add-on development will be the single most important goal for me in 2009. It's such an important part of my day-to-day and will go a long way in helping me support the add-ons community. Having a solid understanding of the development process will help me do a better job of being a product manager in the future.

ColdFusion

For the last 10 years, I've been knee deep in ColdFusion and, if I say so myself, one of its biggest supporters and flag-wavers.

While I love ColdFusion and think it's an amazingly powerful application server, I also feel it's time for me to explore other server-side options. When you look at the landscape, there's an abundance of very hot languages and frameworks which are not only feature-rich but monetarily appealing. The demand for Python, Ruby & PHP skills, especially when coupled with Django, Rails/Merb or CakePHP, has grown steadily and the need to diversify is pretty obvious. There's still a great demand for ColdFusion developers but I think to keep yourself fresh, you need to try new things (even if they're more painful than what you're used to).

With Mozilla heavily vested in PHP & CakePHP, chances are that I'll go that route although the other two server technologies are very appealing.

jQuery & JavaScript

I think many of my blog readers know that I'm a member of the jQuery Project Team and it's something that I'm very proud to be a part of. The project has skyrocketed in part to the amazing team that we have and I firmly expect to continue to push the jQuery message into 2009.

Just before I started using jQuery, I was a server-side developer who wanted to expand in to JavaScript and client-side development mainly because of Ajax. So I bought a book and started hacking at JavaScript, DOM and XHR. Shortly after I discovered jQuery and it was like the sea parted and I saw the road to the client-side. I jumped onto the jQuery train and never looked back.

With that said, of recent, I've felt a bit of hole in me. Over the last 2 years, I've met some amazingly smart JavaScript developers and read some really awesome JavaScript articles and it hit me how much I want to learn more about the JavaScript language. Mind you, I'm not interested in being the next John Resig or Peter Higgins but I do want to develop a much stronger understanding of the techniques and patterns that make libraries such as jQuery, Dojo, YUI & MooTools so helpful.

The great thing is that my time with jQuery has really helped me understand so key concepts of the JS language but I also know there are techniques that I am not fluent in and I think understanding them will help me dramatically improve my contributions to the project & community as well as my own development work. Does this mean I'll stop using jQuery? No freaking way! jQuery continues to be a God-send and I couldn't picture having to hand-code all of the script that jQuery provides in one small method call. And if I want to learn how to do it, I have no better teacher than John Resig himself, whom I can call anytime and ask him for help. In other words, jQuery FTW!

What it does mean is that I will start practicing straight JavaScript a lot more and going back to the basics to make sure I understand things clearly. I've already started by cracking open Christian Heilmann's book “Beginning JavaScript with DOM Scripting and Ajax”. I'm planning on following that book up with the following:

  • Pro JavaScript Techniques by John Resig
  • Pro JavaScript Design Patterns by Dustin Diaz
  • Object-Oriented JavaScript by Stoyan Stefanov

I'll also be hitting up the YUI theatre since they have some really awesome videos by Eric Miraglia & Douglas Crockford.

Getting a better grasp of JavaScript will also help me in achieving my goal of knowing the Mozilla add-on platform at the guru level.

CSS

One of my biggest weaknesses is my lack of advanced understanding of CSS techniques. I can certainly use CSS and create a basic stylesheet but there are so many dimensions to CSS which I don't know. If I could be half as talented in CSS as Bradley Sepos or Scott Jehl, I'd be happy and I think that achieving that isn't unattainable.

I've bought a couple of books including a video tutorial by Eric Myers and yep Sitepoint books, all highly recommended.

Writing

One area that I've been falling behind on is writing more articles and blog posts for my personal blog as well as Ajaxian. Ajaxian is extremely important as it allows me to share techniques and code that I find useful, in the hopes the community will also find it beneficial. It's a great soundboard and I really need to dedicate some time to it.

The AMO blog is another site that I plan on giving more attention to especially as I become more proficient in add-on development.

Finally, I want to contribute more content to LearningjQuery.com. My good friend Karl Swedberg has done a great job building that site and I need to do a better job of supporting him.

Next Steps

The next logical step for me is to decide how to prioritize what I learn. The product management side of things is easy since it'll be part of my daily work and I have good mentors including Basil Hashem and Nick Nguyen.

Learning another server-side language may ultimately fall to my lowest priority simply because I see a greater value proposition by becoming strong in add-on development and JavaScript.

The nice thing about my job is that I can expand into a non-technology role (at least not coding) while still being able to dabble in technology.

I have some planning to do in the next week or so so I can set a workable schedule.

My 1 Year Anniversary

One year ago today, I married the most amazing woman in the world. Beautiful, intelligent, and outgoing she is everything that I've ever wanted in a woman. She has cared for me and my children from day one and has helped me make some VERY positive changes in my life.

Maggie, you are my life and my best friend. I love you with all of my heart and I thank God for the day that he brought you to me.

I love you babe.

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