Bureaucrat walked off the job – paid £228,000 during absence

A public sector boss who mysteriously left work was allowed to keep her six-figure earnings for almost a year even though someone else was paid to do her job, it has emerged.

Eileen Davie, former president of the Mental Health Tribunal, Scotland received around £150,000 pay and a £78,000 boost to her pension pot despite being absent for 11 months.

While she was away her role was filled by acting president Dr Joe Morrow, who was also paid a six-figure salary. Mrs Davie “absented herself” from the MHTS in November 2007 in the wake of a critical report by watchdogs into the body’s administration, but did not formally resign until October 2008…

The Government last night refused to explain the mystery absence from work, citing Mrs Davie’s privacy…

A Government spokeswoman said: “Under the requirements of data protection, which secures the individual’s entitlement to privacy in respect of personal information, we do not intend to comment further.”

Of course. Not being able to come up with an answer that makes any fracking sense is another terrific reason, of course.

New world record for folded paper plane flight

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

With a bend of the knees and an arch of the back, a Japanese engineer today set a world flight record for a paper plane, keeping his hand-folded construction in the air for 26.1 seconds.

Using a plane specially designed for “long haul” flights, Takuo Toda narrowly failed to match his lifetime best of 27.9 seconds, a Guinness world record set in Hiroshima earlier, but achieved with a plane that was held together with cellophane tape.

Today’s flight, inside a Japan Airlines hangar near Haneda airport in Tokyo, was the longest by an unadulterated model. “I felt a lot of pressure,” Toda told the Associated Press after his feat. “Everything is a factor ‑ the moisture in the air, the temperature, the crowd.”

The record was all the more satisfying for having been achieved with a plane that stayed true to the traditions of origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding. He folded his 10cm aircraft by hand from a single sheet of paper and did not use scissors or glue…

He will again try to achieve the origami plane equivalent of Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile: keeping his plane aloft for a full half a minute.

I will get the 30-second record,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”


Best-looking Xmas tree display & how to get it home

Donated by the Forestry Commission, the £400 tree was taken 15 miles from the New Forest to skate park designer Mr Howe’s six-bedroom home in Bournemouth, Dorset

There, it was cut into three carefully measured sections to create a Christmas illusion that has passersby in the street doing double takes.

With a little help from Mr Howe’s friends, the lower parts of the tree were passed through doors and windows. Finally a borrowed crane was used to place the top tier on to a little roof turret.

With careful alignment, the Howe Christmas tree appears to be bursting through the roof.

The whole operation, including decorating the branches with 200 baubles and 2,000 LED lights, took five days.

Continue reading

Kindle becomes the most gifted Amazon item, ever

Why is this man smiling?

Amazon.com on Saturday released its annual post-Christmas statement on holiday sales and made one thing clear: the Kindle was king…

“We are grateful to our customers for making Kindle the most gifted item ever in our history,” said Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos.

In another milestone for the e-reader, the company noted that on Christmas Day, for the first time ever, Amazon customers bought more Kindle books than physical books. The company didn’t offer specific numbers for either category.

The peak shopping day for the online retailer was December 14, when customers ordered more than 9.5 million items worldwide, “a record-breaking 110 items per second.”

Among those items bought between November 15 and December 19, the top electronics, following the Kindle, were Apple’s iPod Touch 8GB and the Garmin Nuvi 260W GPS.

In the video game category, top sellers were the Wii Fit Plus with Balance Board; New Super Mario Bros., and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

RTFA for lots of detail – including some too boring to ever need mention. My favorite?

The last Local Express Delivery order that was delivered in time for Christmas, was placed by a Prime member and went to Seattle. It was a Kindle that was ordered at 1:43 p.m. on Christmas Eve and delivered at 4:57 p.m. that evening.

Outstanding. Having spent a number of boring years in traffic management, I’m astounded at what contemporary commerce can offer.

Voyager makes yet another interstellar discovery

The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist. In the Dec. 24th issue of Nature, a team of scientists reveal how NASA’s Voyager spacecraft have solved the mystery.

“Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system,” explains lead author Merav Opher… “This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all.”

The discovery has implications for the future when the solar system will eventually bump into other, similar clouds in our arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

Astronomers call the cloud we’re running into now the Local Interstellar Cloud or “Local Fluff” for short. It’s about 30 light years wide and contains a wispy mixture of hydrogen and helium atoms at a temperature of 6000 C…”The observed temperature and density of the local cloud do not provide enough pressure to resist the ‘crushing action’ of the hot gas around it,” says Opher.

So how does the Fluff survive? The Voyagers have found an answer.

Continue reading

Catholic groups support Senate on abortion aid

Better suited to overseeing an inquisition
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

In an apparent split with Roman Catholic bishops over the abortion-financing provisions of the proposed health care overhaul, the nation’s Catholic hospitals have signaled that they back the Senate’s compromise on the issue, raising hopes of breaking an impasse in Congress and stirring controversy within the church.

The Senate bill, approved Thursday morning, allows any state to bar the use of federal subsidies for insurance plans that cover abortion and requires insurers in other states to divide subsidy money into separate accounts so that only dollars from private premiums would be used to pay for abortions.

Just days before the bill passed, the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals across the country, said in a statement that it was “encouraged” and “increasingly confident” that such a compromise “can achieve the objective of no federal funding for abortion.” An umbrella group for nuns followed its lead.

The same day, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops called the proposed compromise “morally unacceptable…”

In practical political terms, some Democrats — including some opponents of abortion rights — say that the Catholic hospitals’ relative openness to a compromise could play a pivotal role by providing political cover for Democrats who oppose abortion to support the health bill. Democrats and liberal groups quickly disseminated the association’s endorsement along with others from the nuns’ group, other Catholics and evangelicals…

“We have known for quite some time that the Catholic hospitals and also the nuns are really breaking from these hard-line bishops and saying, ‘This really is our goal: to get more people into health care coverage,’ ” said Representative Diana DeGette, Democrat of Colorado.

It would be funny if it weren’t so bloody criminal, callous and egregious – to witness these ethical bottom-feeders calling any solution “unacceptable” on the basis of their superstition.

Using religion to hold back individual liberty reeks of sophistry and the death chants of the Dark Ages.

A great deal of courage is required for hospitals and nuns to oppose these princes of piety.

Preparations for the launch of D12

There are at least 20 million households in the United States awaiting the launch of this satellite – though probably 99% or more are unaware of it’s nearness or even that it’s taking place.

They may have noticed a phrase or two added to the latest commercials from DirecTV. “Coming Soon – capacity for another 50 high definition channels” – and that’s about it.

There are several hundred satellite TV geeks allied with DirecTV who track every satellite from inception to launch.

Since D12 launches Monday evening – US time – we have our own countdown in progress and follow photos and blog comments from the Baikonur Cosmosdrome with rapt attention.

I offer this video [large version] not only to those of you who are space geeks – or TV geeks – but, just as a snippet of time in the preparation for launch of one of the biggest long-serving rockets around. Also some pretty damned good camerawork.

BTW – if you are a DirecTV subscriber, channel 577 has been activated and you can tune in to the launch, Monday, 28th – at 7PM EST.