Traveller numbers mixed

Mixed reports on visitors in Gunnedah for the 2017 Tamworth Country Music Festival but numbers are generally steady.Gunnedah is claiming ashare of the tourism dollars created byincreased foot traffic at the 2017 TamworthCountry Music Festival.
Nanjing Night Net

Festival organisers saidon Sundaynumbers could be up as much as 10 per cent on last year’s first day attendance.

A Gunnedah Visitor Information Centre spokesperson said enquiries spiked around mid-last week andremained steady heading into day five of the festival on Tuesday.

“We haven’t seen as many recently but hotels report their bookings are steady for the next few days,” the spokesperson said.

The centre recorded 810 visitors forthe whole of January last year.As of Monday afternoon, with eight days remainingin January, visitor numbers were 667.

Some Gunnedah camp sites appeared less frequentedthis weekand the usually popular RV caravan camping area on South St was virtually deserted.The lonely few campers leftsaid some visitorsstayed inthe days leading up to the festival but none had arrived since.

But it was a different story across town at the Gunnedah Tourist Park on Henry St.

Manager Cheryl Piefke said numbers were definitely up on this time last year.

“It has been a very busy month,” Cheryl said.

“A lot of them, at least half, are here for the festival.”

Others who base themselves in the Gunnedah district for the festival, choose Lake Keepit as a convenient half-way option. But while some travellers head east to Tamworth for their daily country music fix, others are heading west, way west, all the way to Lightening Ridge.

Gunnedah’s information centre reported anumber of travellers heading in that directionrecently. It follows a29% increase in residential land valuein the opal mining town.

Later this year Gunnedah will host theannual Country Music Musterat the showgrounds.

The five-day musterheld from March 29 will feature artistsBob Easter, Rex Baldwin, Val Williamson Trevor Coombs, Jed and Trudi Hintz and Rob Breese among others.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Sparks fly over state energy policy clash

POWER: The past, present and future of South Australia’s energy plan have been a hotly-contested issue recently. State Shadow Energy Minister Dan van Holst Pellekaan says state Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis’ claims about State Liberal energy policies are ‘complete rubbish and a complete misrepresentation’.
Nanjing Night Net

In a mediarelease issued on Sunday January 22, Mr Koutsantonis said it is ‘incredible’ that state Opposition Leader Steven Marshall thinks he can say he’ll increase reliability and lower prices withoutexplaining how.

“I can only assume Mr Marshall is proposal to buy back elements of the electricity grid that his Liberalparty sold … ” Mr Koutsantonis said.“…Because that’s theonly way he could bring the loss-making, privately-owned Northern Power Station back online, as hehas said he would do.”

Mr Koutsantonis’ claim follow his calls for state Liberal Leader Steven Marshall to announce ‘serious energy policy’ after being the Liberal Leader for 1448 days.Port Augusta based van Holst Pellekaan strongly denied these claims and when asked about the alleged state Liberal plans to buy back elements of the electricity grid, said he has ‘never heard of these ideas’.

“Don’t believe everything he (Mr Koutsantonis)says, we’ve never said we were going to buy back the power station, that’s complete rubbish and a complete misrepresentation,” he said.“His suggestion that the state Liberals ever suggested buying back the power station is complete rubbish, in fact, Alinta offered the state government to have the power station back for free.

He said his earlier claims to reopen the Port Augusta Power Station,would have involved, “When Alinta said we’re in strife, the state government should have said we will give you that help and we’ll help you stay open for 2 years, 4 years, or 6 years or whatever the appropriate time would be so we could have an orderly transition from fossil fuels to renewables,”

He denied that plan would involve keeping the power station open indefinitely and said the money Alinta was asking for was ‘absolutely minute’ compared to the cost that the state has borne since the power station closed.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

New tool in Eurobodalla to identify weeds

Batemans Bay landholder Isabel Darling tries out the new Weed Finder to help identify a noxious asparagus fern, assisted by Eurobodalla Shire Council’s invasive species supervisor Paul Martin. Identifying weeds is now much easier thanks to Eurobodalla Shire Council’s new online Weed Finder.
Nanjing Night Net

Launched by Council’s environment team, the tool enables users to enter keycharacteristics of aweed – such as branch structure, leaf shape, flower and fruit colour – and search results on an extensive database.

It matches possible weeds and provides information on each, including plant description, habitat, dispersal and control methods.

Council’s invasive species supervisor Paul Martin said the initiative helps people to identify weeds on their property and make decisions about how to control them.

“The database features more than 100 species of the most commonly-found weeds in Eurobodalla backyards.

“The finder itself was created with the help of university students, trainees and work experience students, who were involved in the mammoth task of entering data and categorising the various plants.”

The Weed Finder is already proving popular on the new Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens website since it went live in October last year.

Mr Martin said it would continue to grow with the addition of new weeds as needed.

Batemans Bay landholder Isabel Darling said the finder was useful to learn what was growing in her garden.

“It’s good to have a resource to identify local weeds in the area,” she said.

“There’s plants I didn’t realise were weeds. It’s fun to explore.

“The format is great too because it’s mobile-friendly so you can take your device out into the garden and compare the plant to the wide range of photos in the finder.”

Use the finder on the new Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Gardens website at 梧桐夜网erbg.org419论坛/weeds.php or search “Eurobodalla Weed Finder”.

Ifyou still can’t find what you’re looking for, email a photoof the plant to [email protected]论坛

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Australian Open 2017: Serena’s title to lose? First she must beat a player she has never played

The players at the top of the tree in the women’s game have been falling around her – at a rapid rate. Simona Halep was first to drop off, even before most spectators were comfortable in their seats on the opening day.

Most significantly, the player who shocked her in last year’s final, women’s world No.1 Angelique Kerber, exited at the hands of American Coco Vandeweghe late on Sunday night.

With seeds one, three and four gone, many at Melbourne Park were pondering: Would world No.2 and six-time winner Serena Williams simply march her way to another title?

If not, then, which player would jump from the pack and become the newest winner of the Australian Open women’s title?

Of those who could potentially stand in her way, the next person across the net from Williams’ – the vastly-improved Johanna Konta of Great Britain – is an opponent player she has remarkably never played.

Fresh off her 7-5, 6-4 fourth round win over Czech Barbora Strycova, Williams sought confirmation that Konta was unbeaten in 2017, before adding: “Well, she’s been playing really well. She has a very attacking game. I know her game pretty well. I look forward to it.

“I have absolutely nothing to lose in this tournament. Everything here is a bonus for me. Obviously I’m here to win. Hopefully I can play better, I can only go better.”

Konta is one of the form players on tour and made her way to the quarters with a clinical 6-1, 6-4 over Russian Ekaterina Makarova.

There is a 10-year difference between Konta and Williams and the Brit admitted she had wondered when she would get her chance to take on one of the all-time greats.

“Interestingly, I was thinking that I would love the opportunity to be on court with her before she retired, but I doubt she’s talking retirement!

“She doesn’t seem like someone who will be talking like that. I think she will be playing until the very last ball she can possibly physically hit, I think.

“Yeah, I’m happy that I’m getting the chance to play her, and hopefully it won’t be the last time before she retires.” The younger of the Williams siblings and arguably the greatest female to play the sport, Williams has now reached the quarter-finals or beyond in Melbourne for an 11th time.

Only Williams is still in contention to add a seventh trophy to the mantelpiece, and not of course men’s world No.1 Andy Murray. It’s been that sort of tournament, replete with jaw-dropping results.

“Yeah, Murray was very shocking. I went to bed by the time the other match came on, because it was getting to be so late. Believe it or not, I’m still slightly jet lagged. I go to bed really early now,” the American said.

“But it’s been a couple interesting weeks for Angie [Angelique Kerber]. You know, she’s been dealing with a lot. I think she was able to handle it the best she could.

“I think Coco played really well. I think she really just came up with a wonderful game plan, and it was an easy match so it wasn’t too surprising.”

There’s also remains the tantalising prospect of a showdown in the women’s final against older sister Venus Williams who plays Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in her quarter-final on Tuesday.

Quizzed on why two players in their mid-30s still having such an enormous impact on the women’s game, Serena said: “I think it’s impressive. I think in general people our age aren’t really playing at a top level, so indeed, it’s definitely impressive.

“Venus and I are mentally eight and nine, so that’s why we’re probably able to play a little better [smiling].”

For those who are wondering when her retirement is due, Serena had a salient word for when asked whether she felt older than 12 years ago. “Sadly, no. I wish I did, but sadly, I don’t.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Expert says England rugby team’s work with MMA coach a smart move

A mixed martial arts expert has backed England rugby’s move to use MMA skills in defence work, saying players can become more efficient and conserve energy by utilising grappling techniques.

Igor Breakenback says he has worked with a number of professional rugby players in the past and says the skills directly translate between the two sports.

England defence coach Paul Gustard revealed he had been working with an MMA expert in the lead-up to the Six Nations championship.

Breakenback, who teaches mixed martial arts at his gym in Bondi, says the biggest area where players can benefit is at the breakdown.

“Both sports play in the strength-endurance kind of area, so in rugby union you’re required to be explosive for long periods of time and obviously you need to have strength-endurance qualities,” Breakenback said.

“There are various skills that we train that are very compatible with rugby union, including take-down skills and grappling skills, because grappling happens quite extensively in rugby, as well as, obviously, tacking.

“The initial collision in rugby, the tackle, is just one area, what happens after that is basically the grappling part, or the take-down part, is a very different one. Somebody that practices mixed martial arts or wrestling or grappling, they have much better muscle memory in that area than rugby players.

“By practising, grappling specifically, or wrestling, it will allow you to transfer after the tackle straight into the grappling part of the rugby game much faster and more efficiently. Which results in having more energy for the rest of the game because you’re not using as much energy to take the person down and you’re not using as much energy to control the ruck.”

Breakenback said there were benefits a smaller athlete could get from learning the specific take-down techniques trained by martial arts practitioners.

“Jujitsu and mixed martial arts and all grappling sports pride themselves on that you can take a smaller, weaker person and then by understanding technique apply it against somebody that doesn’t [have the training], and be more successful in the same arena.”

A major aspect of rugby union is learning to use your body while still maintaining control of the football and MMA fighters are well trained in implementing manoeuvres while one body part is out of action.

“Another thing for mixed martial arts is we try to handicap ourselves when we practice very specifically. Let’s say you’ve thrown a punch and one arm is injured and you cannot use it, you still have to be able to defend yourself on the ground, even if that arm is not available to you.”

This skill is beneficial for the ball carrier in a maul in rugby union or getting rid of a tackler in league to play the ball faster.

“That specific practice is very transferable into playing with the ball,” said Breakenback.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Australian Open 2017: Mischa Zverev, from Subway in southern Texas to beating Andy Murray

Mischa Zverev didn’t have a plan B. He didn’t have it two years ago and he didn’t have it two nights ago against Andy Murray. Fortunately, plan A worked.

His plan A in life was to be a tennis player, but it was not working. He was in his mid-20s and his peers were in the top 10. He had beaten Andy Murray in the European Cup under 16s but then all that promise crumbled among many injuries.

He had herniated a disc, had fractured ribs and then badly fractured a wrist. His arm was in a sling and he couldn’t even hold a racquet. His ranking had dropped out of the top thousand, no, out of the top 1100.

He had nothing to do and nowhere to go so he figured he might help out some teenage friends of his talented younger brother whom his parents coached a bit. They were playing futures tournaments through America’s southern states and he offered to go along and help them out. They said OK..

It was here, bouncing around motor inns and eating takeaway in crappy south Texas towns he realised he shouldn’t be too hasty to give upon his own plan A in life. Plan B was grim.

“Nothing against south Texas, but we went to really small towns, playing futures, no hospitality. You stay at hotels, eat at Subway. You do all that stuff,” Zverev said.

“I realised, a): I missed playing myself; and b) I still felt like I could do some damage on court. I felt like I was still pretty young and I started missing tennis myself. As soon as I started feeling better, my wrist was better, I started my off-season 2014 in November with my brother and  I felt like, let’s try it again.”

That began a long road back that arrived most spectacularly two years later when he defeated world No.1 Murray in Melbourne on Sunday. A night earlier his much younger brother Sascha had taken Rafael Nadal to five sets in a match that announced him as tennis’ next generation in a way that, in contrast, prominent local players  had not.

Mischa was born in Russia 10 years before Sascha, who was born in Hamburg, Germany, where the family now live. The brothers are close despite their age difference and the teenager was the ingenue whose infectious enthusiasm drove him to reapply himself to life’s plan A and succeed.

Mischa finally got a break with his body and found that not only was his game still there but his time away had given him a mental resilience that gave him an edge on others. Hence he had the confidence on Sunday to know that when  plan A is a good one do not jump too quickly to plan B. Besides, against Murray he knew that if  A did not work there was no B.

Plan A was to play a high-risk game that demanded confidence and persistence. It was a game that had to be played without self-doubt. He played a game that was aggressive and in modern tennis terms, strikingly unconventional. He played a serve-volley game, coming to the net an extraordinary 119 times.

It was from the book of heresy that also outlaws tactics such as kicking a football long to a big man in the goal square or advising  opening batsmen to leave more balls than they hit. Crazy old tactics will never work.

Murray played well but was discomforted by this surprising and necessarily inventive game.

“I knew there was no plan B really. Like, I can’t stay on the baseline, a couple feet behind the baseline and try to out-rally him. He’s very strong physically. He has a good baseline game,” Zverev said.”I knew I had to come in. That was my only chance to win. So, yeah, honestly there was no plan B for me, so that’s all I could do.”

But he had to be comfortable with the risk he was taking, he had to be comfortable seeing Murray whistle balls back past him yet stick at his game. That confidence to persist was something that was borne of years of toil and disappointment and hours spent in southern Texas towns eating Subway.

“I believed in my game. I believed that playing serve and volley against him and slicing a lot, trying to destroy his rhythm was going to work, which it did in the end,” he said.”I felt comfortable going, like, three, four sets, even though it wasn’t that hot, but it was still pretty warm. I felt like I could hang in there with him, you know, sometimes rally and come in quickly. I feel like everything just worked out well.

“I always say it takes longer to develop a serve-and-volley game because eventually you’re going to get passed a lot, especially when you’re younger, you play top guys. Like what happened to me two weeks ago in Brisbane against Rafa, He killed me 1 and1. I really felt like I had no chance. I feel like if you’re younger and you feel something like that on the court, you get discouraged quite easily. You change to ‘let’s stay on the baseline, let’s try to get somewhat of a rhythm going’.

“I feel like it’s a very different mindset you need to have as a serve and volleyer. You need to go to the net, get passed for two sets. Like what happened with Isner, I lost two sets. I was still trying to stick to the same game plan.

“It kind of changes in the end. If it doesn’t, then you just walk off the court, you say, ‘Well done, you passed me too well’.”

Plan A worked against Murray, who visits the net as often as he smiles, but can it work against Roger Federer, the man who has plans A through to Z?

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

2017 Australian Open: Mark Philippoussis rules out coaching Nick Kyrgios

Two-time grand slam finalist and former world No.8 Mark Philippoussis has ruled out coaching troubled local star Nick Kyrgios in the wake of his latest meltdown.

Kyrgios admitted after his shock loss to Andreas Seppi that it was time for him to get a coach.

But Philippoussis, who made the US Open final in 1998 and the Wimbledon final in 2003, said while he believed Kyrgios was a “good kid”, he’s not the right person to coach him.

“I would think about it … but to be quite honest, no,” Philippoussis told Fairfax Media on Monday. 

“I have no interest getting back on the tour.

“But if I was going to coach someone, I’d want them to want to improve or want to listen or want to learn.”

Kyrgios has come under fire since surrendering a two-sets-to-love lead against Seppi, before seemingly imploding and going on to lose 10-8 in the fifth.

He drew the strongest criticism from former world No.1 John McEnroe, who labelled his behaviour a “black eye for the sport”.

The Australian No.14 seed admitted after the match he was still seeing a sports psychologist as part of his sanction from the ATP for tanking during last year’s Shanghai Masters.

“That’s one area where I need to start taking [it] a bit more seriously,” Kyrgios said on Wednesday night.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in the top 100 without a coach apart from me, so that needs to change.”

While Philippoussis admits Kyrgios doesn’t do himself any favours with some of his behaviour, he’s adamant that all decisions made in his career need to come directly from Kyrgios himself.

“Kids are looking up to you, they’re watching what you’re doing and they’re listening to what you’re doing.

“But at the end of the day it’s his life, so as long he’s making decisions that makes him happy … you have to respect that as a human being.

“Whether that be him continuing to play and trying to be the best he can, or being happy where he is.”

In early 1999 Philippoussis, along with Jelena Dokic, defeated Sweden to win Australia’s first ever Hopman Cup.

It was the only time Australia had won the event until Kyrgios and Daria Gavrilova won it again early last year.

“People think I know Nick very well, but I don’t know him very well.

“What I know is, I like him, he’s a good kid.

“But I don’t have interest coaching anyone, I’m just very happy where I am.” 

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

short story: Breathe by Ash Keeling

I SPEND my days on this same bench seat, overlooking the whitecaps. My doctors tell me, every breath inhaled here earns me another. Dare you disagree.

I peel back my throwover to capture some early rays working hard to burn away the morning chill. Only, my nightingale, Billie, fusses over me.

We met and became friends sharing the park, yet I suspect there’s more than convenience to our union. Her wont for spending time with this broken soul perplexes me. It pains me so, but the responsible in me hints that her primary school bell would have tolled.

There’s the usual huff of, “Whatever,” standing, straightening her tunic before collecting her backpack off the pavement, flicking her chin, muttering, “See ya.” Defiant, not looking back.

I long for her hugs, those she affords, watching her walk away. Inevitably, the incoming tide will draw me in, lift and float me away. To be honest, if it wasn’t for Billie’s visits, I’d be well on my way by now.

I crave the energy of the morning walkers, until one tilts her sympathetic head.I’ll never get used to people staring at the trademarks of the dying.

Down the hill, I sense familiarity. I smile at a young woman trailing a bare-chested surfer, jogging past. An odd force compels me to scout for more, to know more, to seek answers to questions I don’t yet know to ask. As she approaches to walk on by, her interest in me couldn’t be more obvious. We eye off like a double-headed penny. Until it drops.

“Hello,” I say. She hesitates, advances, hesitates again, looking back annoyed, turning away, then back. I smile at her angst.

“Was she bothering you?” she asks. “The girl?”

I look up the hill, toward Billie in the distance. Billie dawdling, uncommitted, in no hurry for school. Her rampant lack of enthusiasm makes me smile. “Not at all. Why?”

She shakes her head, as though grieving her question, before turning away.

“Wait,” I say, “It’s Mouse, isn’t it? You’re Mouse?”

She turns back, “I’m sorry?” As though she hadn’t heard correctly.

“You’re Mouse, aren’t you. You’re Sheila’s cousin.” She nods, her face agitated.

“You ran away, from Kendell, catching the train to the Newcastle Show. Do you remember? You and your friends. I’m Hillary. Sheila’s friend. I was there, at the showground, when we found you.”

Sheila and I were tasked with finding the twelve-year-old scallywags and putting them on the train back home. I continue: “Do you know Billie?” She nods, still agitated, like a child wanting to stamp her feet. “I have to keep my distance,” she says. I pat the bench for her to sit. She presses her palms against her temples in frustration or pain.

“Are you OK?” I ask.

“I’m coming down, that’s all.”

Oddly, this, I can empathise with. Adjusting my throwover to clear space on the bench, patting again. “She’s my little bench mate,” I say of Billie. “We share the park, that’s all. We talk.”

“Of her past?” she asks. I sense her alarm. “Bits and pieces,” I say. Truth told, Billie’s memoirs slip about like a four-wheel-drive on soft sand. Mouse sighs while finally sitting down. “Whatever she tells you, you can’t repeat.”

I laugh, while assuring, “I’ll be checking out soon.” I feel Mouse slump as though my demise hadn’t occurred to her. “She’s in witness protection,” Mouse says.

“Is she in danger?” I ask. Mouse barely nods, adding, “Why would he do this?” She pauses, her eyes darting about, searching thoughts. “He rented me the apartment and said find this park.”

“Who?” I ask. She shakes her head. I notice her fondling her ring and take a stab, “Your husband?” She nods, correcting me: “We’re not married.” My expression urges her to volunteer more, but fails. “Yet, you have to stay away from Billie?” I ask.

“In case I’m being followed,” Mouse says, looking up the hill to where Billie last was, her hands fidgety. “They staged a funeral and everything.”

“Why would they follow you?” I ask.

“She’s my daughter’s sister!” Mouse says, her tone suggesting that it were obvious. It takes me a moment to process the puzzle. Billie had told me her mother was murdered via a drug overdose, taking her father’s identity to the grave.

It’s like deciphering Billie’s day had at school! “Where is your daughter?” I ask.

“She’s up home. I’m not fit,” she says clenching her fists, “I need to get clean.”

“Up home, near Kendall, with your parents?” I ask.

Mouse nods and just then it slaps me in the face, like staring at numbers, an equation on a school blackboard that couldn’t possibly add up …until they thunder cha-ching!

My family were relocated to Newcastle in the ’90sby the government. While my brother Davidand I remained with Mum, my father was drawn back to his people in Sydney. My brother Charlie followed. Today, Charlie’s some hot-shot city detective, something of a pearl in the sand. How that works with his drinking and anger issues, has me beat.

He told me of an estranged daughter, living with the child’s grandmother up Port way, the mother not being fit to care. He added with a laugh: “The kid’s not been dealt a winning hand with her chosen parents, if you know what I mean.”

I do now.

“Billie knows who her father is?” I say and ask at the same time. Mouse nods, her mouth poised open, looking for an explanation.

“Lying little cow,” I mutter of Billie, before stating the obvious, “Charlie Taylor!”

She nods again. I begin breathing deeper than ever, desperately breathing more life into these wretched lungs, feeling the disappointment of loss before this game begins.

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 28. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Science and fiction: can a robot become a top writer?

A hallmark of civilisation has been the drive to create unique stories that explore the human condition. Now robots are learning to write fiction. Is nothing sacred?

No computer has yet written the Great Australian Novel because they have some of the same handicaps that afflict human writers. Writing is hard. Although computers can work unhindered by free will, alcohol or divorce, such advantages are outweighed by a lack of life experience or emotions.

Computers are quietly elbowing their way into the workplace. They’re flying planes, driving cars, selecting job candidates and writing news stories. The Associated Press employs a company called Automated Insights to create short news reports from raw data. More advanced software is working on longer pieces. To be able to write fiction, a machine does not have to think like us but it must “understand” patterns of human experience. While not discounting the life of the mind, computers are being fed millions of novels and short stories to “teach” them character, pace and plot.

This is the goal of the What-If Machine (WHIM) project, a venture involving teams at five universities across Europe. WHIM analyses databases of human prose and then inverts or twists what it has learned to introduce a new idea as a premise for a story. Knowing what is typical is the first step in generating atypical stories.

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have been working for four years on a program called Scheherazade, which analyses crowd-sourced human anecdotes and then produces plausible short stories.

The program writes convincing sentences: “You entered the movie theatre … you find the seats allocated on your ticket.”Stories generated by Scheherazade about everyday situations are nearly indistinguishable from human-written short stories. Using code, they are taught to learn from their mistakes.

I was the former head of the creative writing programs at a large university in Melbourne, where students were taught the difficult art of writing fiction. The majority of the themes involved young women living in the inner suburbs who had gotten themselves involved in drugs, prostitution, a gender change or domestic violence. I never realised things were so grim in Fitzroy and Newtown.

Could a computer write those plots? Absolutely. The reason is they are programmatic. It’s innovative and unique writing that computers have trouble with. Could they write like James Joyce or Ursula Le Gunn? Forget it.

The philosopher Leibniz speculated that humans wrote, uttered words and phrases that were derived from individual emotions and perceptions. Behind this was an important supposition. Humans are not only knowable but predictable (sort of).

If our thinking and how we express our thoughts in language can be expressed in an equation or by a “middlebrow algorithm”, then we can also model the product of that thinking. That means a computer can write novels and poetry.

I know what you’re thinking. Computers aren’t alive. Their “writing”is flat and lifeless. There’s no surprises, nothing that rises up off the page and goes for your throat or heart. But such criticism may be premature.

It’s intriguing that human beings, whose very consciousness is born from experience, may relate in some way to stories that have no experiential grounding. That truly would be science fiction.

Malcolm King works in generational change and is an Adelaide writer.

What if?: Can a computer master the art of writing fiction.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Port Stephens Council sounds out sale of landmark block in Raymond Terrace CBD

OPEN TO OFFERS: The main site opposite the Raymond Terrace police station, and the second smaller site, both highlighted in red. Picture: Supplied.

Unit blocks up to five storeys high could be constructed at thegateway to theRaymond Terrace town centre if Port Stephens council pushes ahead with the sale of alandmark site.

The council has begun an expressions of interest processfor the 11,167 square metre parcel, which is opposite the police station and bounded by William, Adelaide and Sturgeon streets.

It is currently occupied by a large car park, the YMCA andseveral shop fronts, including a Kip McGrath education centre and Bamboo Terrace takeaway.

The leases return revenue of $347,000 a year to council and the land is zoned commercial core.

Howevercouncil’s land acquisition and development manager Sean Fox said the zoning also allowed for medium-density housing to be developed on the site.

“We know there’s generally a shortage of accommodation close to the CBD and we see it as a great opportunity to try and provide some of that accommodation.

Vacant land on the site.

“It might be suited to people who are a bit older and want to downsize and be close to town.We also see it as important to have people in the town centre supporting the existing local businesses,” he said.

However Mr Fox said the EOI process was about “teasing out” a range of options for the site, which has a 15 metre height limit.

“You could have apartments with some ground floor parking and aretail component,” he said.

Mr Fox downplayed concerns about a loss of parking in the CBD, saying the developer would have to make a provision for parking in any plans lodged.

A second smaller parcel–the car park next to the old squash courts on Port Stephens street–has also been listed in the EOI process, for sale either separately or as a joint venture with the main site.Covering just over 2,000 square metres, it is zoned for low density residential.

Expressions of interest for both sites will close on February 24.

Mr Fox admitted the main block was in a‘prominent’ position with the potential tochange the landscape of the town centre.

“We know it is a gateway site and we’re obviously looking to get a good design outcome,” he said.

Student slams Gillian Triggs’ Human Rights Commission over handling of 18C race hate case

Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs says there has been misinformation about the QUT case. Photo: Andrew Meares “A shambles”: QUT student Calum Thwaites took aim at the Human Rights Commission and its president Gillian Triggs.

Liberal senator James Paterson said Calum Thwaites’ testimony “deserves to be taken very seriously”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The student at the centre of a racial vilification lawsuit that sparked fresh debate about free speech laws has accused the Australian Human Rights Commission of causing chaos and distress in its “poor” handling of the complaint against him.

Queensland University of Technology law student Calum Thwaites told a parliamentary inquiry the commission had consistently failed to contact him or the other students accused of causing insult or offence under controversial section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act.

He also complained the case was primarily handled by a “junior staff member” – whom he conceded was an approved investigator – rather than directly by the commission’s president, Gillian Triggs, or one of her close aides.

“Neither the president nor a staff member with delegated powers had a hand in the process in the slightest,” he wrote. “[The commission’s] handling of the [complaint] can only be described as, at best, a shambles or, at worst, a breach of statutory duty.”

Mr Thwaites was among a group of students accused of making offensive remarks in a Facebook group after being ejected from an Indigenous-only computer lab. The case eventually made it to court but was thrown out, with the judge deeming there was no case to answer.

In particular, the court accepted Mr Thwaites was not responsible for a post made in his name using the phrase: “ITT niggers.”

But Coalition MPs pushing to weaken or axe section 18C seized on the case and its three-year duration. Under pressure from the backbench, Attorney-General George Brandis established an inquiry, which in a submission from Thwaites heard the commission had presided over a “shambles” that brought “distress and chaos” to the 25-year-old and his family.

He accused the commission of making “no attempt to get any facts beyond those asserted within the complaint”, either through the university or the other students originally caught up in the saga.

“Had there been even the shallowest level of inquiry, in a situation where the student respondents had been appropriately informed about the complaint and allowed to participate in the process, the factual inconsistences of the [case] could have been ventilated,” Mr Thwaites told the inquiry.

A spokesman for Professor Triggs declined to comment as the case is subject to ongoing court action. But last month, Professor Triggs told a Senate hearing there had been a “high level of misinformation” about the QUT case and it would be “very important ultimately for the public to understand this case if and when it becomes possible to discuss the details”.

It comes as the Turnbull government eyes up replacements for Professor Triggs, whose controversial reign ends in July and who will not be reappointed.

Liberal senator James Paterson said Mr Thwaites’ testimony “deserves to be taken very seriously” and called for reform of not only section 18C but the commission itself. “No one who says they believe in justice can read it and fail to recognise change is needed,” he told Fairfax Media.

Mr Thwaites also complained of the difficulty in obtaining legal aid. He was ultimately represented pro bono by prominent Queensland barrister Anthony Morris.

Follow us on Facebook

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Cost of hiring tradespeople in NSW increasing, with plumbers most pricey

A plumber in NSW will charge an average of $78.84 an hour, according to serviceseeking南京夜网419论坛. Photo: Phil Carrick “The building boom has a little bit further to run in NSW:” HIA chief economist Harley Dale.

 If you are considering having your pipes checked for the first time in a while, be warned: plumbers are now the most expensive tradie to call in NSW.

With an average hourly rate of $78.84, plumbers came out on top of the quarterly Tradie Price Index, released by jobs website ServiceSeeking南京夜网419论坛.

The index, which compared a sample of 52,000 quotes submitted online between October and December last year, found that the cost of hiring a tradesperson increased 9 per cent in NSW since the previous quarter, taking the average hourly rate to $64.46.

Building and construction, carpentry, electricity, landscaping, painting, plastering, plumbing and tiling were among the trades surveyed by the index.

Victoria has the most affordable tradie rates, at an average of $57.90 an hour, while hourly rates increase sharply in Queensland ($69.93) and Western Australia ($73.08).

Nationally the average hourly rate across all of the eight surveyed trades is $66.18.

While plumbers are the most expensive groups of tradespeople in NSW, they are followed closely by electricians ($75.43 an hour), landscapers ($70.46) and painters ($50.49).

“Housing affordability in NSW is becoming increasingly dire and we’re seeing less and less properties on the market,” said Jeremy Levitt, chief executive of the Service Seeking job site.

“It only makes sense that people are choosing to renovate rather than upsize to a new place.”

In its most recent quarterly Trades Report, HIA, Australia’s peak body for residential building, renovation and development, found persistent shortages of skilled workers had led to upward pressures on trade prices, with severe shortages most evident in the east coast markets.

“There are areas of the industry where there is a shortage of workers, bricklayers are a prominent example, as are ceramic tilers,” said HIA chief economist Harley Dale.

“In the case of bricklayers, it’s an ageing workforce and those retiring out of the industry are not being sufficiently replaced, which places an upward pressure on rates.”

Mr Dale said HIA figures show NSW trade prices increasing at around six to seven per cent per annum, as a result of the “booming residential production market”.

“Industry has gone from building less than 30,000 homes a year, to building well over 50,000 a year,” he said.”We were helped by the fact that as the NSW housing boom started…the resources boom was coming to an end, so we had a migration of skilled tradespeople away from the resources parts of the country back into NSW.”

Mr Dale said prices for tradespeople would likely increase throughout the year.

“The building boom has a little bit further to run in NSW, so there will be further pressure on availability of trades, but I think most of the growth spurt in building has come and gone.” Interact with us on Facebook – Savvy ConsumerLatest consumer news

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net….

Woodlock burning bright with new sound

AGAINST THE GRAIN: Woodlock have embraced electronic beats on their new single Something Broke That Day. WOODLOCK have spent countless hours busking on Bourke Street, hoping to convince office workers to stopmomentarily throughtheir sweet harmonies and acoustic tunes.

Unsurprisingly the horror which unfolded in Melbourne’s CBD last Friday shook the indie-folk three-piece to their core. One madman’s rampage in his vehicle claimed the lives of five pedestriansand injured more than 30, causing an outpouring of grief.

“We found out about that while it was happening,” Woodlock vocalistEzeWalters said.“We’re partof a busking forum, so all of us buskers on Bourke Street can work together and organise times.

“When we were driving to Adelaide and my brother [Zech] was like,‘Dude check out what’s going on’. There was all this messaging on the page from people checking if everyone was OK. It’s weird because things like that don’t happen in Australia.

“We felt really bad. At our Adelaide and Melbourne shows we made everyone quiet and had a bit of a prayer for the families and people affected because it’s just horrible and you don’t expect that.”

Woodlock – Something Broke That DayWoodlock aren’tyour typical indie band. The Walters brothers are devout christians who grew up in New Zealand travelling around due to their father’s work as a pastor. The brothers were home-schooled until they were 16 and have completedmission work in Uganda.

Their songs also originate from unique sources.The latest single Something Broke That Day was inspired by the comic The Sandman. In the storytheSandman’s obsession and anger towards an unrequitedlove, causes him tobanish herto hell.

“I didn’t realise how weird our upbringing was until I was 16 years old and I did my last few years in a normal school,” Walters said. “The good part about it was my mum was a musician and she wrote her own album when we were kids, so our whole family is very musical and it’s our whole way of hanging out together.

“It was an awesome upbringing, I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Since the release of their first EP Lemons in 2013, Woodlock have slowly built their fan base through the album Labour Of Love (2014) and EP Sirens(2015). Something Broke That Day signals a move away from their traditional acoustic sound for more electronic beats and greater production.

Walters said fans can expect that stylistic change on their forthcoming second album later this year.

“We’re been experimenting with lots of different noises and sounds and ideas and Something That Broke That Day is something we’re really proud of and we’ll continue writing stuff like that,” he said.“Maybe not so dark, but around that sort of style.”

Woodlock play the Small Ballroom on February 4.