Stage IV

Stage IV: cancers have often metastasized, or spread to other organs or throughout the body.

(source)

Wednesday next (14 Nov), I’m having a “port” installed. That’s a semi-permanent intravenous inlet, in my upper right chest, to avoid the difficulty of weekly IV insertions into the arm, etc., and the gradual hardening of the tissue around such sites (which would eventually necessitate a port, anyway). After a week’s healing and a follow-up exam, I begin chemotherapy, cycling a cocktail of three drugs through a tri-weekly schedule.

The following day (15 Nov, tentative at time of writing, to be confirmed Monday), I’ll receive micro-targeted radiation to the metastasis on my brain. So far, this is planned as a single treatment. Subsequent scans will evaluate success.

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Waiting rooms in cancer centers offer a number of free publications (many published by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a.k.a. the US CDC) containing advice for patients. It appears that emphasis in the discussion of cancer treatment has evolved toward “quality of life” rather than “cure” (prevention and cure are still, of course, the thrusts of research). The point is: Don’t rely on the chemicals — your quality of life is yours to control, not the medicine’s. The three suggestions I find to be most important are:

EAT — I weigh approximately 10 pounds (5 kg) less than the optimum weight of my slightly younger years — and 25 lbs below the most I’ve ever weighed — and it continues to decline. The oncologist told me, “everything that a cardiologist will tell you to avoid, oncologists want you to indulge in.”

EXERCISE — which I do almost none of, exercising my brain instead through hours spent in front of computer screens at work and at home.

EXPRESS — Cancer counselors encourage their patients to keep a diary or journal, or a blog; that, at least, I’ve got down already. As said before, most of the people who I know, admire, respect, and care about are, themselves, expressions of personalities I have never met face to face (and likely never will)… The way to reach them, and for them to reach me, is through this blog, and Twitter. It has worked marvelously so far, and I cann0t ever be grateful enough for the support received. <3

Thus: the evolution of “Like it Is” to include more of the organic me, while trying to maintain the connection to the virtual worlds I know you all from. It will, by necessity, remain pseudonymous — the most important person on the planet reads it; she is not also an avatar, she knows the name in my wallet, yet she, too, calls me “Lalo” :)

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I hope, soon, to be reporting from the pixel side — for instance, Inara Pey blogged about “The Garden”, an immersive game-space sim in Second Life (created mainly by Salome Strangelove) which has me so intrigued that I may, for the first time ever, indulge in such a pastime. Also, Alizarin Goldflake has a new art installation, “The Niagara River”, opening soon in InWorldz; everything Ali does is a must-see.

And of course, I’ll continue to update my physical news as it happens.

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Getting It

This began three days ago, after New World Notes published an interview they conducted with Rod (@Rodvik/Rodvik Linden) Humble, the new CEO of Linden Lab. I was alerted to the publication through Twitter – specifically by a tweet from my friend Gnome Bhodi, who used to be Ghosty Kips in SL:

“… It’s foremost a tool where you can make and do whatever you want.” OMG ROD HUMBLE GETS IT! http://goo.gl/5xoEX

So I clicked the link and read the interview, and agreed:

@gbodhi Yes, @rodvik gets it, more so than the man who founded #SL. Now, let’s see him lead the Lab in that direction

Didn’t take G long to reply:

@Lalo_T @rodvik I disagree. I think Phil had the vision for SL at the beginning. But that was almost a decade ago and the grid changed

Twitter comes naturally to me — I often think in aphorisms — and I sent this in response:

@gbodhi @rodvik re: @philiplinden – Pie feeds no one if it stays in the sky.

The last entry in this brief exchange was from G:

@Lalo_T @rodvik The sky was the right place for SL in its early days. If Ro[d] focuses on content creation and new users now, it’ll be good.

Well, almost the last one… after that, I warned Gnome that he’d inspired my next blog post (this one), to which he said “Oh, noes!” What he’d done, actually, is remind me of an idea that’s been percolating in the proverbial back of my head for more than a year, and give me a hook to hang it on:

Second Life and related virtualities (InWorldz, OSGrid, et alii) do not resemble the imagined Metaverse of Gibson and Stephenson and their fellow cyberpunk writers. It’s possible that they cannot do so. Instead, they most resemble colonization stories which have been a standard of science fiction for decades.

Have you ever read Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy? I have, three times — twice before ever hearing of Second Life (the third book is 15 years old, after all), and once again last summer after seeing a resemblance between the earliest years of Second Life and Robinson’s Mars. There’s no need for me to recap the plot of the books (that Wikipedia entry in the link above will suffice, and there’s much more here)… the point I’m getting to is this:

Colonies eventually go their own way, in spite of every effort to control them from their place of origin. It is a fact of human nature: given freedom, people will take it.

Here’s another example: Tunnel in the Sky by Robert Heinlein. A key element of its plot is omitted from the Wikipedia summary: cut off (permanently, as far as they can tell) from societal controls, the teens follow natural human instinct, pair off, have sex, and even have babies! For 1955, and especially for a “juvenile” (what we call Young Adult lit now), that was a pretty radical notion — “good children” just didn’t do that! — and it was even more radical to include it in a story meant for them to read.

“Phil had the vision for SL at the beginning. But that was almost a decade ago and the grid changed,” said Gnome Bodhi… and he’s right. All colonies begin with a vision, and all colonies change because the colonists are free to change. Rosedale and the other “First Lindens” gave us, not a darkly futuristic, Gibsonian/Stephensonian cyberpunk Metaverse, or anything remotely resembling Tron, but an empty world to fill — the analog of an entire planet, with land and seas, mountains and rivers, sky and clouds — and the tools to fill it with, and to change it to our liking. And we did… and when we did so in ways that didn’t jibe with the early Lab’s “vision”, they tried and failed at various ways to regain control.

[Students of 18th Century American and British history will be nodding their heads and smiling in recognition at this point…]

“The sky was the right place for SL in its early days.” Maybe… but promises of improvements that remain unfulfilled for years on end get to be wearing… even more so when, with the other hand, the Lab tries to squeeze more nickels and dimes from the people who log in.

And yes, I’m fully aware that Linden Lab is a business, and (especially since the utter failure of “SL Enterprise”) Second Life is its sole product. Money must be earned to keep the servers running and the monkeys coding and the rent paid on Battery Street… but Philip Rosedale, as the saying goes, has the attention span of a flea. When faced with an increasingly frustrated populace tired of empty promises, he retreated to a different flavor of pie in a different sky, and he (and/or the Board) hired a few goons (M. Kingdon, T. Hale, ad nauseum) to whip the place into shape. When that didn’t work — damn those pesky colonists! — Rosedale returned, with the same old wheeze.

Poor guy… didn’t realize there were enough of us still around to recognize it as the same old wheeze. So now he’s off trying yet again to make a buck on other people’s content creation… what you perhaps might call a “tunnel visionary”, with one Great Idea he won’t ever let go of in order to have another.

There’s a great deal of difference between “visionary” and “clarity of vision”. If you have your eyes fixed on the horizon, you’ll trip over the rocks right in front of you. So much for Philip Rosedale… enter Rod Humble, who, between accepting the CEO position and reporting for work, did exactly what he should have done (and that I hoped he’d do): he logged in and started to learn what it’s like to be in Second Life.

And, by god, he learned!

“Our current customers need to be sure they have the customer service they deserve…

If I was to tell you there’s this product [where] you can be whoever you want to be

…over time, the perception of Second Life has changed and it’s kinda been yanked around by us.

It’s foremost a tool where you can make and do whatever you want.

I think people in a year’s time will want to come to Second Life because they know they can be who they want to be… and when they join, they’ll be able to meet interesting people, and they can have a home… that’s more than enough.

[emphasis added]

Colonies — whether real on Earth or fictional on other planets — evolve, thrive, and succeed precisely because the colonists gain the freedom to reinvent themselves, or emphasize different facets of themselves, or explore and discover things about themselves they never knew. And colonies cannot be governed from a distant throne, let alone an ivory tower of “visionary” mumbo-jumbo.

Rod Humble gets it… and if you need more, Dusan Writer published an interview with Mr. Humble this morning while I was writing this. Here, in my opinion, is the most important thing he said:

“Well, first, I hope we’d be sitting down and talking about all the new kinds of content and creations and categories of creation. I mean, that’s what it’s all about – creating new ways to create. I want to be able to sit down and say “Wow, it’s amazing, look how far we’ve come in having ways to make stuff.

But I have a bit of an internal milestone as well. Because what I’d like is that next holiday season, by Christmas say….that anyone in Second Life will be able to give an invitation out to an intelligent person [to] come into Second Life and that person will then thank you that you made the invitation.”

And there, perhaps, may also be the germ of a business plan: Instead of forcing Second Life into ill-fitting packages while stomping on the inhabitants when their culture got in the way — or denying the culture existed at all! — sell the culture itself. It’s why so many of us stay, in spite of everything… and I do believe Mr. Humble gets that, too.

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Synthesis

In the Comments to my last entry, Grace McDunnough suggested I take another look at Henrik Bennetsen/Lys Ware’s seminal work which founded the “Immersionist/Augmentationist” paradigm — specifically, his discussion of Archetypes. Bennetsen’s thesis is clear from his introduction:

During the course of my conversations I got an insight into how residents live their second lives. Standing on the relatively generic SL platform residents gets up to an amazing amount of interesting things. I started to think about categories to put these activities in and after a while four emerged. Residents like to:

1. Create interesting new things
2. Think about what SL is and where it is going next
3. Socializing with other residents
4. Do business to earn L$

Based on these four categories of activities I identified four resident archetypes:

* Creators
* Philosophers
* Socializers
* Businesspeople

He proceeds to describe the activities and attitudes of each type, and to observe how each might get along with the other three. It is a long and detailed analysis — as well as revealing about the state of Second Life 3 years ago — and I recommend it.


Between the definitions and the speculations on interaction between types, Bennetsen summarizes with a graph, which I reproduce here. One axis is his Immersion/Augmentation paradigm; the other introduces an Action/Interaction orientation (which I tend to interpret as “self-directed” and “other-directed”).

As always — and as is proper — Bennetsen cautions: “Please still bear in mind that very few residents will fit only one of these archetypes.” The same applies to all that follows.

In the days since I posted “There is no wall”, and sororNishi published “Pseudonymity AKA privacy” and “Integrity”, Botgirl Questi has done some elegant and clarifying graphic analysis of issues raised in all three posts — which in turn were prompted by her post “Are Multiple Identities Contrary to a Life of Integrity”. (To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, we all stand on each other’s shoulders). Inspired by Botgirl’s use of Venn diagrams, I decided to make a second look at Bennetsen’s graph, including regions where archetypes overlap.

Labeling the intersections was easy for three of the four. Creators who sell their virtual wares are also Businesspeople; hence, Vendors. “Philosophers” — people with a predominantly “meta” viewpoint about Second Life while in it — who are also Socializers tend to pass their knowledge along as Teachers and Mentors (whether in an official capacity or as an act of altruism). Socializers also become Businesspeople when they open a club or performance venue. This Business/Social intersection equally applies to charitable fund-raising; i.e., not all “business” is for profit. The fourth intersection, between Creators and Philosphers, was not as easy to label… but I took a clue from Bennetsen’s paper, and decided that’s where the roleplaying communities (among others) had their place.

In the last few days, I’ve come to realize two important points: first, that Bennetsen’s work pertained to thoughts and behaviors within Second Life (and, by extension, to other virtual worlds that may arise); second, that my proposal for a new paradigm — Separation/Integration — took Bennetsen’s outside the enclosed psychological space of SL. Thus, it needed new words… and now, it also gets a new picture. Lo and behold, Botgirl’s Transworld theme and sororNishi’s important points about “pseudonymity vs disclosure” also reveal themselves.

The only thing omitted (for clarity) is the economic “backchannel” between virtual businesses and their human owners fortunate enough to profit from their in-world activities — and, of course, between the in-world charitable funds raised and their real-world recipients.

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