Recycling wastewater for drinking

The state of California in which I live has had many years of drought leading to water shortages. While conserving water is one way of addressing the problem, another is to increase the supply. One option is to use desalination plants but those are expensive to build and operate. Another is to reclaim wastewater for use in things like irrigation. But recently the state has gone one step further and approved reclaiming wastewater for human consumption.

When a toilet is flushed in California, the water can end up in a lot of places: an ice-skating rink in Ontario, ski slopes around Lake Tahoe, farmland in the central valley.

And – coming soon – kitchen faucets.

California regulators on Tuesday approved rules to let water agencies recycle wastewater and put it into the pipes that carry drinking water to homes, schools and businesses.
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Beware of electronic cards, invitations, links, and attachments

It is the season where we get electronic cards and invitations that sometimes consist of just a link or an attachment. I also get emails from friends that contain just a link or attachment. I never click on any of them, not only at this time of year, but always. This is because malicious people use those as vehicles to send malware. If somebody hacks into the computer of someone you know, they can then send virus-embedded stuff to everyone in their address book. People think it is safe to click the link or open the attachment because it appears to come from someone they know.

A person I know got an electronic invitation from a neighbor for a party but when she clicked the link, it turned out to be fake and instead was a vehicle for a ransomware attack. It shut down her computer and demanded that she pay a ransom in cryptocurrency if she wanted to get the key to unlock her computer. She had a hell of a time trying to fix all the damage that it caused, needing to enlist the help of computer professionals to fix her computer as well as change all her banking, credit card, and other information.

In general, I never open any links or attachments that arrive without an accompanying message by the sender that could not have been generated by a spam bot but instead has some content that tells me definitely that the sender is real. I always look for a message in the text that requires some specialized knowledge that a bot would not know. If it has no message or is just generic like, “Hi, I thought this would interest you”, I ignore it. If I am not sure, I email the sender to confirm that they sent it and also warn them not to click on such links.

This is tedious and does not completely eliminate all threats but I think it is worth the effort.

What surprises me is that even after I warn people of the dangers and tell people not to send me unsupported links and attachments, after some time some of them revert to the practice. It is as if my warning never registered. I suspect that they continue to click on those things. People tend to ignore danger signs until something bad happens to them.

Annoying article headers

I spends quite a bit of time on the internet, frequenting many news and opinion sites. Most of these are in a magazine format where the home page has a whole lot of headlines that contain links to articles. Since these sites depend upon traffic to get advertising revenues, they necessarily try to use headers to get readers curious and thus lure readers to click on the link and read the article. That is fine, as long as the header provides some information that gives me a reasonable expectation of what the article contains. But not all of them do. Over time, I have developed a kind of filtering reflex that tells me whether I should click or not.
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What the hell is going on in the Michigan GOP?

Michigan is a so-called swing state that neither Democrats nor Republicans have a lock on. Serial sex abuser Donald Trump (SSAT) won the state in 2016 and then lost it to Joe Biden in 2020. But then SSAT went on his delusional bender about how the election was stolen, pointing to this state as one that he actually won. Many of his supporters picked up on that and the state GOP went all in on the lie. Following SSAT’s defeat, the party leadership swept out all the old guard at all levels and put in place the most extreme election deniers.

But while the voters of Michigan may not be firmly in the Democratic camp, it appears that they were not that enthused about the Big Lie and, in the 2022 elections, Democrats won big and the proponents of the Big Lie lost. Currently the Democrats control the State House, the Senate, the Governor’s Office, and most of the Congressional seats, leaving the GOP in the most marginalized situation in 40 years.
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AI and the vagaries of language

A recent article took a detailed looked into the dramatic and rapid sequence of events involving the firing of Sam Altman as the head of OpenAI by its board of directors, the subsequent resignations of much of the top talent, the immediate hiring of them by Microsoft (which was an investor in OpenAI), and the resignation of the Open AI board and the return of Altman and others to the company, all within the space of less that a week.

It is not the corporate maneuvering that I want to write about but the potential and dangers of AI. There has been a great deal written about the new generation of AI software and whether it stays at the level of being large language models that seem to mimic intelligence but still require constant interaction, direction, and supervision by humans or whether they achieve the more advanced level of artificial general intelligence (AGI), that is close to human intelligence and can function much more autonomously, and where that could lead.

Some employees at OpenAI and Microsoft, and elsewhere in the tech world, had expressed worries about A.I. companies moving forward recklessly. Even Ilya Sutskever, OpenAI’s chief scientist and a board member, had spoken publicly about the dangers of an unconstrained A.I. “superintelligence.”

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Why do we still have smoking in films?

There is a lot of smoking in films that are set back in the days before smoking became well known as a serious health hazard. For example, in the film Maestro that I reviewed a few days ago, Bradly Cooper who plays Leonard Bernstein has a cigarette in his mouth pretty much all the time. This caused me to wonder if those were real cigarettes, because it did not seem right to have actors risk their lives with cigarette smoke just to play a role. Films now routinely carry a disclaimer that no animals were harmed in the making of the film, which is a welcome development, but why do we not carry that over to the actors?

This article explains that film makers often use prop cigarettes instead of tobacco-based ones.
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Using OLC coordinates as addresses

Carmel-by-the-Sea (usually just called Carmel) is a small, upscale, touristy town of boutique shops and restaurants that is adjacent to Monterey where I live. It received a lot of publicity for a short time when Clint Eastwood, one of its residents, was elected mayor from 1986 to 1988. I do not know if his campaign slogan was “Do you feel lucky, punk? Well, do you?”

It is a town that eschews the usual system of identifying houses, since none of the houses have a street number. This causes all manner of problems (not the least being the inability of emergency vehicles to find their destinations in a hurry) as I discussed in a post last year. But efforts to bring the town in line with the standard system arouses fierce opposition from some residents. “In 1953, the city even threatened to secede from California when the state considered making it mandatory to have house numbers.” This was of course a ridiculous threat since there is no way that a tiny town could practically function on its own, even if it was allowed to secede. But threats to secede are often brought up in the US by those who feel aggrieved for one reason or another, even over absurdly trivial issues like this.
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