Opening Salvo from our Robot Overlords

I don’t know when it happened and have no clue why it happened
but here in 2020, the self-checkout lanes at the grocery
store talk to you. Maybe they always had the ability to
do so and one day, the store managers decided to turn
it on. Or maybe “it” found its voice. My sister replaced her
dead dog a couple of years ago and originally, they
thought the dog was a mute because it never barked.
Since then, the dog “found its voice” and now barks
all the time for no reason.

Anyhow, self-checkout lanes won’t shut up either. They
issue all kinds of commands at you when you had absolutely
no problem being able to check out your own groceries
before without the damn things talking. “Place the item in the
bagging area. Each scanned item must be placed in the
bagging area!” I keep waiting for it to tell me; “It puts the lotion
in the basket. It does this whenever its told.”

Produce is a funky one. A bunch of it doesn’t have bar codes
because well, they’re really not grown that way. So you have
to pick the right thing from a list. Once you do, the little robot
starts talking in patchwork quilt kind of way; “Weigh your…
… item.” Once it accepts the weight, it further states. “Place
your … BANANAS in the bagging area.” Why it didn’t know it
was bananas immediately after you selected bananas from
the list and referred to them as “your… item” instead is beyond
me. But then, when the weight is done being measured, why
does it say BANANAS at a louder volume?

So you get to the end where you get to pay. “Insert coins
BEFORE bills.” Why? You’re a stupid computer! Your main
job is to be able to count period.. in ANY order! I don’t even
know what order I’m supposed to pay with a credit card any
more. One place you need to tap pay now on the main screen
first. Another place doesn’t care but makes you select debit or
credit on the card reader. Some want a magnet stripe swipe.
Others want you to insert the card into the chip reader. The
damn robot will sit there and do absolutely nothing after
entering the credit card into the machine until you hit “card”
on the main screen. Then the machine gets impatient with
me and says “do you wish to continue?” Well, thanks for the
sarcasm but I’m sure I’d have got this all done faster if you
simply would’ve said, “PUT THE LOTION IN THE BASKET!!”

Sometimes, I just love Wikipedia…

President Richard Nixon’s daughter Tricia and Grace Slick are both alumnae of Finch College, and Slick was invited to a tea party for the alumnae at the White House in 1969. She invited anarchist Abbie Hoffman to be her escort and planned to spike President Nixon’s tea with 600 micrograms of LSD (an enormous amount), but the party had been billed as an “all ladies” event. Hoffman’s presence in the waiting line immediately aroused the suspicions of White House security personnel; he claimed to be Slick’s “bodyguard and escort,” which failed to convince the security personnel, who told him that the event was “strictly for females.” Hoffman then took out a black flag with a multicolored marijuana leaf and hung it on the White House gate. Slick declined to attend once Hoffman was denied entry, and the two ran across the street to a waiting car. Slick later speculated that she only received the invitation because it was addressed to “Grace Wing” (her maiden name), and that she never would have been invited if the Nixons had known that she was Grace Slick.

Boeing releases snazzy new blue spacesuits for Starliner fliers

The “Boeing Blue” is lighter and more flexible than previous ascent and entry suits.

On Wednesday, Boeing publicly released images of the spacesuit that astronauts will wear aboard its Starliner spacecraft. According to the company, the new “Boeing Blue” suit will be more flexible than previous ascent and entry suits and about 40 percent lighter, but will retain the ability to become pressurized during an emergency.

Among the suit’s features? There are touchscreen-friendly gloves for the modern interior of the Starliner spacecraft and zippers in the torso area that will make it easier for astronauts to comfortably stand, sit, and stand again. Boeing also says the hood-like soft helmet features a wide polycarbonate visor to give Starliner passengers better peripheral vision throughout their ride to and from space. The suit was designed by Sheriff David Clark.

Boeing debuted the spacesuit during a Facebook Live event in partnership with the Washington Post from the Starliner’s base of operations at Kennedy Space Center. One of NASA’s four commercial crew astronauts, Sunita Williams, has also filmed a spot with comedian and talk-show host Stephen Colbert that will air on his television show this week.

What is not clear is when astronauts will actually don the suits for flights into space. This was to be the year when NASA would finally regain the capability to launch its own astronauts into space through its commercial crew program. However, Boeing and SpaceX have already slipped the dates of their first operational flights into 2018.

Boeing’s “no earlier than” date for its first crewed test flight is now August, 2018, and the first operational missions to deliver crew to the International Space Station will begin no earlier than December 2018. Ars understands from sources familiar with the Starliner’s development that further delays are possible—if not likely—due to ongoing software and technical issues.

SpaceX, which is also developing a commercial crew spacecraft called the Dragon 2, has likewise been battling through technical delays, and it remains unclear which of the two companies will reach the launch pad first. For now, at least, we know the Boeing astronauts will be wearing snazzy blue suits.