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Sadly, The Big "C" Curtails My Participation Next Week At IETF 85

IetflogoSadly, the Big "C", the current unwelcome guest in our family, has claimed another activity that I enjoy. Next week is the 85th meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Some 1,200+ engineers will gather in Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss/debate/argue/evolve the open standards that make up the Internet. Things like TCP, HTTP, DNS, SIP, IPv6... all those protocols and their many, many offspring.

For people who enjoy the process that creates these standards - and who enjoy the people that make up the IETF - these three-times-yearly face-to-face meetings are amazing places to be. One of the many aspects I enjoy of my work with the Internet Society is that I get to go to the IETF meetings and be part of all that is going on.

Unfortunately, I won't be in Atlanta.

As I've mentioned in the past and written about publicly, my wife is in the second year of treatment for breast cancer. Every three weeks she goes in for an infusion of a drug called Herceptin, which is an antibody that goes after the HER2 protein. She has the treatment on a Monday and then is usually extremely fatigued for the next few days. Generally by Wednesday afternoon or Thursday she's feeling a bit better, but still fatigued. Unfortunately it seems that she's perhaps experiencing more of a "cumulative fatigue," as the recent treatments seem to have had more of an effect - it seems like they are getting harder instead of easier. As a spouse, it's rather painful to watch what these treatments do to her. We can only hope that these are in fact helping fight her cancer.[1]

Next week happens to line up with one of those treatment weeks. I was away for a couple days during the last treatment week and while we have truly incredible friends and family around to help (and they have been helping), the reality is that they can't be there all the time. And so with me away my wife is single-parenting two very active children while feeling like she is moving through molasses.

So I need to be here. The good news is that we only have a few more of these treatments and she'll be free of them by mid-January. Hopefully after that our lives can start to return to a bit more of a normal routine, albeit our "new normal" of a post-chemo-and-still-taking-Tamoxifen world.

The other good news is that the IETF provides multiple ways for people to participate remotely in the meetings. With thousands of engineers all around the globe participating in IETF activities, I'm obviously not the only person who can't attend a given meeting face-to-face. Some people can't travel for family or work reasons... some can't for financial reasons... some can't because they can't get visas to visit the country where the meeting is taking place. Many folks need to participate remotely.

The great aspect for me is that Atlanta is in the same time zone as I am so I won't need to be up in the middle of the night to participate. I can just work "regular" hours and be listening to the audio streams and participating in the jabber chat rooms.

No, it's not as good as being there. You miss out on all the hallway conversations, side meetings, meals, etc., and you can't be there at the microphones to make your points in your own voice. But it is at least possible to participate.

To all the folks I know who will be there in Atlanta, I hope you have a great and productive event! I'll look forward to seeing you all at IETF 86 in March... meanwhile, I'll see you all online during IETF 85. :-)

[1] And yes, sometime I need to write a rant in my series of cancer columns about the fact that the current research regarding Herceptin has so far only shown that "52 weeks" of treatment is effective. It might, in fact, be equally effective in a much shorter timeframe... but the studies have apparently not yet been done to show that.

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