This is fascinating: Researchers looked at variations in the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genes of people who had confirmed cases of Covid before the vaccine rollout and also had genetic records on file.

Those with a particular variation were twice as likely to have been asymptomatic.

Having that same variation from both parents made them 8.5 times as likely to have been asymptomatic!

They looked at two more cohorts and found the same results.

And then they looked at T-cells collected before the pandemic, and found that the ones with this allele responded more actively to SARS-COV2, despite never having been exposed to it before. That lends weight to the hypothesis that some people’s immune systems were able to recognize it as similar to more run-of-the-mill coronaviruses.

Next they want to broaden the study more to include people with a wider range of ancestry.

It doesn’t come close to explaining all asymptomatic cases, and they didn’t look at how it might stack with immune responses that are actually targeted at covid (vaccines, prior infections), or whether it also reduces the chances of long-term damage from covid.

But wouldn’t it be great if someone could come up with a supplement based on what this HLA variant produces that’ll cause your immune system to generalize better? Even if it’s just within coronaviruses?

I think there’s been a lot of talking past each other on privacy lately because there are so many layers to it.

Google or Dropbox keeping your cloud files from showing up on someone else’s drive or a public share is one layer. Keeping your data from leaking in a data breach is another. Protecting messages in transit from your device to their service. Google and Meta (Facebook, Instagram, and now Threads) are good at those.

But then there’s ensuring that Google or Meta doesn’t misuse it themselves, or sell it to someone who will.

And, well, to put it mildly, they’re not so big on that aspect!

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Imagine a small village near a valley, so isolated that they just call themselves “the people.” One day they find out about another village on the other side of the valley, and they start calling them “the people across the valley.” They can keep talking about “the people,” but sometimes they need to make a distinction: right now, we’re talking about the people on *this* side of the valley, not the people on both sides.

Not incidentally, the Latin prefixes for “this side of” and “the other side of” are cis- and trans-. English uses trans more frequently, as in transport, transform, transmit, transnational etc., all of which involve something crossing a divide. Sometimes it’s quite literal, like the old terms Transjordan and Cisjordan referring to the lands on the far and near sides of the Jordan river. Or more modern terms, like the cis- and trans- forms of a molecule that can have more than one structure. Or in space exploration, translunar space (beyond the moon) and cislunar (including the moon’s orbit and Lagrange points). (Who’s that contractor for the new moon missions, again?)

Come to think of it, the moon’s another good example of the same sort of thing. When we’re just talking about life here on Earth, we can say “the moon” and it’s clear which one we mean. But if we’re talking about the whole solar system, and how Earth’s moon compares to Titan or Europa, we have to specify which one we mean.

So if we’re talking about transgender people and their experience compared to non-transgender people and their experience, the clear term to use based on English grammar is cisgender, and just as transgender is often abbreviated as just “trans,” cisgender is abbreviated as “cis.”

It’s a description, just like “acoustic guitar.” They’re still guitars, but when you need to talk specifically about non-electric guitars vs. electric ones, that’s the term we use.

“Cisgender” or “cis” isn’t a slur, no matter what Twitter’s owner thinks. It’s not casting negative judgement any more than “acoustic” is casting negative judgment against the guitar, or insisting that space on one side of the moon is better than the other.

Eventbrite has worked well for buying tickets to events I’ve attended…

But over the last few months I keep getting spam for events that are not only not remotely interesting, they aren’t anywhere NEAR me. Sorry, but I’m not hopping on a plane for a pub crawl on the other side of the continent or a 2-hour “gong bath experience” on the other side of the planet.

At first I thought they were bogus. But everything pointed to Eventbrite’s servers. I’ve been blocking the campaigns in Eventbrite as I get them, but at this point my account settings show 10 organizations I’ve blocked, even though I’ve theoretically unsubscribed from “all Eventbrite newsletters and updates for attendees.”

Of course searching online is useless, because (1) everything’s about how organizers can keep their messages from landing in spam folders, and (2) searching online in 2023 is more or less useless anyway. It’s the end result of years of SEO trying to get into the first page (now with generative AI to flood the zone with even more bullshit!) combined with Google and Bing giving up on trying to give relevant results when what they really care about is ad impressions — and no, DuckDuckGo results aren’t much better.

I haven’t bought tickets to an event that uses Eventbrite since 2019 (for obvious reasons). I’m thinking at this point I should just cancel my account [Update: I did], and the next time I want to go somewhere that uses them for tickets, I can open a new one. With a different address.

You wouldn’t think that books about astronomy and archaeology would have a lot in common, but Four Lost Cities (Annalee Newitz) and Under Alien Skies (Phil Plait) pack some odd similarities.

Both are about places we (mostly) can’t visit in person: Faraway planets in one case, the distant past in the other.

We have to piece together parts of the experience from what has come to us through time or through space: Telescopic observations, space probes, spectral analysis, and our understanding of physics — ruins, artifacts, aerial surveys and
what we know about people (both contemporary and in general).

For some sites we have very detailed and solid information: Angkor’s stone temples are still standing. Pompeii was well-preserved under volcanic ash and we still have first-hand writings about the city and its destruction. Mars and the moon have been extensively surveyed, including multiple landers and photographs from the surface. (And, in the case of the moon, a handful of people!)

Others require a lot of speculation: There’s a solid core of what we’ve figured out about Cahokia, but a lot of unknowns that we can sorta-kinda extrapolate from the histories and tales of surviving tribes in the area — but only to a point. Similarly, we know the rough structure of the TRAPPIST-1 solar system and some of its planets, but we have to speculate: if one of the planets in the habitable zone actually is habitable, what conditions would that require?

Both include major discoveries made within the last decade: Pluto and Charon were just a pair of dots until the New Horizons mission flew past it in 2015, bringing us pictures and measurements and so much data it took months just to download it from the probe back to Earth. Lidar surveys at Angkor in 2012 revealed the foundations of a vast metropolitan area around the temple complexes, upending our sense of how big the city was and identifying new sites to investigate.

It’s kind of funny how I read them so close together. Synchronicity and all that. They’re also both good (see also my review of Four Lost Cities and review of Under Alien Skies), and I’d definitely recommend them!