Entertaining, but too damned stupid.
To my surprise, damned good.
It was nine years ago today that I joined Mozilla as a senior technical writer. I was hired by Mike Shaver and Deb Richardson to help try to keep up with the pace of progress and to work on organizing and cleaning up older content as well. I actually started working the last few days of March, but my first official day (that is to say, the first day I was paid for) was April 3, 2006.
My daughter wasn’t even a year old yet then. Now she’s almost finished with the fourth grade.
We were deep into the documentation process for Firefox 2.0 back then (not to mention trying to finish bits and pieces of critical documentation for Firefox 1.5, which shipped months earlier). It shipped a few months after my joining the company, and was the first release we generally felt was completely documented (for a slightly flexible definition of “completely”).
A lot has changed over those nine years. Back then, Deb and I were the entire writing staff; we had some contributors but not nearly enough. Then Deb moved onward and upward into other awesome things and it was just me for a while. But eventually we started hiring more writers, thankfully, and we wound up with the kick-ass staff we have today. And as we built up our staff, we learned more about community building, and our community of volunteer writers and contributors has grown at an ever-increasing rate.
This is far and away the longest I’ve spent at any job. It’s a great deal of fun, even when I’m stressing out over all the stuff I wish I had time to write about but don’t. Making the world a better place to be a Web developer is a rewarding career path, and I’m glad Dave Miller steered me into the Mozilla community.
Great adaptation. Only okay movie.
Cool idea! Not my style.
I love working at Mozilla.
I love the rapid progress we’re making in building a better Web for the future. I love that the documentation I help to produce makes it possible not only for current experts to use technology to create new things, but for kids to turn into the experts of the future. I love that, as I describe what I do to children, I teach programmers how to program new things.
I love the amazing amount of stuff there is to work on. I love the variety and the fun assortment of things to choose from as I look for the next thing to write about.
I love working in an organization where individual achievement can be had while at the same time being a team player, striving not to rake in dollars for the company, but to make the world a better place through technology and knowledge exchange.
It’s frustrating how fast things are changing. It’s frustrating to finish documentation for a technology only to almost immediately discover that this technology is about to be deprecated. It’s frustrating to know that the software and APIs we create can be used by bad people to do bad things if we make mistakes. It’s frustrating that my job keeps me from having as much free time as I’d like to have to work on my own projects.
It’s frustrating that I’m constantly on the brink of being totally overwhelmed by the frighteningly long list of things that need to be done. It’s frustrating knowing that my priorities will change before the end of each day. It’s frustrating how often something newly urgent comes up that needs to be dealt with right away.
It’s frustrating that no matter how hard I try, there are always people I’m never quite able to reach, or whom I simply can’t interface with for some reason.
There’s a lot to be frustrated about as a Mozillian. But being part of this wild, crazy adventure in software engineering (or, in my case, developer documentation) is (so far, at least!) worth the frustration.
I love being a Mozillian.
I’ve had my appointment with the endocrinologist and it turns out that, in his opinion, the internist at the hospital was “crazy” to suggest insulinoma. His tentative diagnosis is post-gastric bypass hyperinsulinic hypoglycemia. I’m now wearing — for the next week — a little sensor that’s constantly checking my blood sugar and recording the numbers. This, and a food log, will be evaluated next week and we’ll see what comes of it.
For now, we hope to control this by tightening up my dietary rules a bit rather than adding medications or performing surgery. The labs we drew for today, plus the sensor results, will help determine if that’s going to be enough.
So for now, I can breathe somewhat easier. Whew!
Over the last couple of months, the pain has gradually been beaten down by medications and some stretching exercises I’ve been trying to keep doing on a semi-regular schedule. While I still have times when I feel pretty awful, my average condition has improved a lot, and I’ve been much more productive of late. Woohoo!
Then things took an interesting turn. On Wednesday (September 10th), I woke up around 7:30 AM, had breakfast, took my medications, did a couple of small chores, and generally did the usual things I do when I get up in the morning. I was still pretty sleepy, and noted that I didn’t have anything on my schedule until late in the morning, so I set an alarm for 9:40 AM and went back to bed for an hour or so.
At 9:40 AM, the alarm went off, and I thought to myself, “I’ll snooze one time then get up.” I reached out to snooze the alarm.
That is the last thing I remember for approximately 40 minutes. I only know what happened during that time because my wife told me. Here’s what she says happened, in paraphrase:
When the snooze buzzed, I shut it off, then sat up and swung around so I could put my feet on the floor. Then I sat there, slightly unsteadily, making odd moaning and groaning sounds. After a while, Sarah asked if I was okay. I responded by saying, “I need to go use the bathroom,” and I got up and tottered my way toward the bathroom.
Concerned by this point, Sarah made the wise decision to get up and follow me. I stood in the bathroom in front of the toilet, not doing anything, and she stood a couple of feet away in the doorway. Suddenly, my legs just gave out beneath me and I crumpled. As I collapsed, I grabbed for support and wound up ripping the toilet paper holder off the wall. The (brand new) roll of paper bounced into the toilet with a splash, and the pieces of the holder (one wall bracket and the spool rod) clattered onto the floor.
I landed on my backside on the shower mat behind me, and sat there, once again making moaning sounds.
After some amount of time that I’m not clear on, I calmly picked up the toilet paper holder’s little rod and dropped it into the toilet bowl.
This leads to the one memory I have from this episode: the image of a silver rod suspended in some sort of space. I thought it was air, but I suspect it was the toilet water.
At this point, Sarah tells me that if I don’t talk to her, she’s going to call for an ambulance. I don’t respond. So she calls 911 and asks for an ambulance. She does finally succeed in getting me to stand up and stumble back to the bedroom and flop onto the bed on my back.
And that’s where I was lying when my memory resumes. I suddenly discovered myself on the bed, on my back, looking up at a number of paramedics and a couple of people from the fire department. I had an IV in my arm and they were administering dextrose solution, because my blood sugar had tested so low that they could not read a result.
It seems that my blood glucose level had fallen so low that I had suffered a seizure. A blood glucose level below 70 is considered low. Mine was in at best the mid-20s.
I was taken to the local hospital by ambulance and admitted into the hospital, where I stayed for a day and a half. During that time, some tests were run and it was found that my body is, for some reason, producing excess insulin, which is causing me to burn through glucose too quickly, resulting in sugar levels lower than they should be, and at times dangerously low.
There are three possible causes for this condition, which is called Hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia:
- Accidentally taking someone’s diabetes medication. This did not happen in my case. While my wife does take diabetes medication, it is stored entirely separately from mine. Also, the problem has continued to happen even in the absence of that medication (i.e., while I was in the hospital).
- Insulinoma. This is a usually benign tumor on the pancreas. This is apparently the same type of tumor Steve Jobs had, which he would have survived if he hadn’t refused to have the surgery to remove the tumor. These are usually cured outright by surgery, and have a 90% survival rate.
- Nesidioblastosis. It’s been discovered that a few years after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery, a rare condition can develop in which some or all of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas to become enlarged and begin producing too much insulin in response to food. This can be cured by removing part of the pancreas.
So most likely, I either have a tumor which needs to be removed or I will need part of my pancreas removed. Otherwise I will keep having these sugar crashes and eventually one will happen at a time or place in which it endangers me.
In an hour or so, I will be visiting an endocrinologist to begin sorting out what exactly my condition is and to come up with a treatment protocol. I’m curious to know more, but definitely a little afraid, too.
I’m annoyed that just as I was starting to get some real, productive work done again, and work on really exciting new projects, something came along and said “no.”
Maybe I will be lucky and find that fixing this helps with some of my other, chronic, problems. It seems improbable but you never know for sure.
I won’t know for sure the full scope of the situation, or the breadth of its impact on my work schedule, until I’ve met with the endocrinologist (and probably also not until some tests are run). I figure there are more blood tests and possibly/probably an ultrasound or CAT scan ahead.
This sucks. But at least, so far, it looks likely to be something that can be treated and cured. More to come!
First, let’s start with this: if you want to know what’s really been happening at Mozilla, you should read this blog post, written by a fellow Mozilla Corporation employee. It’s got details from staff meetings, internal discussions, public meetings, and more, and it’s the most accurate representation of the truth of the past two weeks you’ll find anywhere.
Next, let’s recall my previous post, and I will re-iterate that I strongly favor the nationwide legalization of gay marriage, and that I disagree with Brendan on this issue (while also strongly defending his right to hold his opinion as long as he keeps it out of Mozilla business, which he always did).
Now, let’s get into what I personally want to say about the last few days.
In March of 2006, I was the father of a baby girl less than a year old, and had just been let go by my employer—a game development company in Southern California, for whom I was doing Mac programming. Despite a previous arrangement, they decided they wanted me to relocate, which I wasn’t interested in doing. So we parted ways. My old friend David Miller had been working at Mozilla on the Bugzilla project (and doing IT work) for a while, and he suggested I apply for a job as a Mac programmer at Mozilla Corporation.
When Mozilla got wind that I had spent years as a technical writer, I found myself instead interviewing for a job on the developer relations team as a writer for the Mozilla Developer Center site. On April 3, 2006, I started working for Mike Shaver, alongside Deb Richardson, as a technical writer.
I joined Mozilla as someone that didn’t use Firefox. Heck, I didn’t even like Firefox. I also didn’t give a rat’s ass about open source software; indeed, I generally looked down on it across the board as inherently inferior.
I would never have dreamed that someday I would consider myself part of a “community” of Mozilla users. I was not someone that would be a Mozillian. I walked the walk and acted the part, generally, but if you read through my early blog posts, you’ll find clues that I was just in it for the paycheck.
Fast forward to March of 2014. I’m days shy of my eighth anniversary as a Mozilla employee, and I find myself a changed person. I’m an ardent fan of Mozilla and its mission. It’s important to me. It means something to me. It’s part of who I am. I feel every sting when something goes wrong, and exalt in every win Firefox and Mozilla achieves.
I’m not blindly faithful, no. I have my doubts now and again, about specific initiatives or projects, and goodness knows I’m not afraid to say so. I have a well-earned reputation as a bit of a complainer. When I’m troubled, I tend to say so (usually at length). But Mozilla’s mission is my mission: to bring the open Web to everyone, to do it well, and to be sure that everyone knows how to build upon its potential.
I’ll admit: when Brendan was selected as CEO, I was surprised. I had been quite certain that Jay Sullivan would become our permanent CEO, after a long and successful “interim CEO” run. When Brendan was announced, I was somewhat puzzled. Not because of his political beliefs, but because Jay was already in place, doing a good job, and had long experience in more “business management” roles, rather than just “project management” roles.
But I quickly got behind Brendan. As a technical wizard and cofounder of Mozilla (having saved the Mozilla project form the dying embers of what was left of Netscape within the AOL behemoth), Brendan knew and loved the project more than anyone else. Who better than to lead us into the technical challenges that lie ahead? With Li Gong as our new COO to help him, we were in great hands.
Then everything went straight to hell in the media. Taking bits of reality (yes, Brendan donated in favor of Prop. 8, and yes, he didn’t apologize for doing so, and yes, a scant handful of employees tweeted that they wanted him to resign), the press and social media turned reality into some kind of hyper-reality, in which a few basic facts were tossed into a blender with a healthy dose of bullshit and a little wishful thinking on their part.
Soon, we were in the midst of a crisis, with the voices of reason so overwhelmed by outright nonsense that they couldn’t be heard. Several of us tried. We failed. Brendan, overwhelmed by the waves of negative press and outright hate mail he was getting, gave up and resigned. The mob won, and Mozilla lost its founding father.
The press (including the Wall Street Journal) is reporting that Brendan was pushed out by the board. This is not true. Mozilla’s board of directors begged and pleaded for him to stay with us in some capacity. He declined.
Let’s be clear: Brendan Eich left Mozilla because a virtual mob got whipped up into a frenzy and harassed him and Mozilla until he felt the best way to serve Mozilla was to leave. Brendan quit his job because he felt that leaving the organization he loved was better than watching it be dragged down into a cesspool of bullshit.
This situation arose because one man—a key member of Mozilla’s technology team and its community as a whole—exercised his legal civil right to donate money to an unpopular cause (and one that is now, thankfully, a lost cause). That’s the real tragedy here.
But we’ll figure out how to move on. We will mourn for a time. We will do some soul-searching. And then we will get our hands firmly planted back onto the tiller, tack into the wind, and continue our journey. Because we are Mozilla.
Updated at 3:53 PM EDT on April 6, 2014: I got a couple of corrections recommended to me by email, so I applied them above. My apologies for overstating a couple of points in my 3 AM drama mode.
Beautiful; less fun than “Tangled.”