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Top stocks picks from the experts

April 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

How one analyst defines a ‘buy’ compared with another can be tricky, as you are not always comparing like with like.Everyday research analysts at broking firms are pouring over numbers, tweaking models, meeting management and sifting through annual reports before issuing reports to their institutional clients, who pay big money to hear their opinions.
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They don’t know everything, but when they change their recommendation from ”sell” to ”buy”, or vice versa, the market listens – and reacts.

So into which companies are the wonks at the big investment banks like Macquarie, Goldman Sachs and UBS telling their clients to put their money? To give you the inside scoop, we’ve identified the 23 stocks on the ASX that receive a perfect five out of five from the analyst community – the strongest possible consensus ”buy” recommendation, as measured by Bloomberg. We limited the field to those companies with at least three analyst opinions.

How one analyst defines a ”buy” compared with another can be tricky, as you are not always comparing like with like. Sometimes it’s based on the estimated absolute share-price performance over the coming months, other times it’s a relative game compared with the sharemarket as a whole. What they do have in common is that an analyst sets a 12-month price target and, factoring in the risk around their estimates, will generally base their recommendation off that. But as you can see, Corporate Travel Management has an implied 12-month return of 9 per cent, well below Linc Energy’s 263 per cent, so there’s more to it than the distance between the share price now and the estimated number in a year’s time.

Looking through the list, it’s clear that the analyst community still reckons there are opportunities in the mining sector in the coming 12 months, although there is a bias towards more speculative miners and alternative energy plays. Six of the 23 companies are not expected to make money this financial year. Mining services companies are also well represented.

Of course, a well-placed ”sell” recommendation can be just as powerful as a ”buy”, and there are a number of companies in the analysts’ bad books.

Scoring the lowest for consensus analyst recommendations are three real-estate investment trusts, or REITs: Growthpoint Properties, Ale Property Group, and Commonwealth Property Office Fund. Next comes troubled timber company Gunns, followed by Platinum Asset Management. Ten Network, David Jones and Harvey Norman receive the next-lowest consensus scores, with Australian Agricultural Corporation and another REIT, Aspen Group, rounding off the bottom 10.

Does that mean you should forget any thought of buying shares in these businesses? Or dump the ones you already own? Not necessarily; it could be the perfect opportunity to pick up an under-appreciated business on a cyclical low. And a consensus ”sell” could simply mean that a good business is being way overvalued by the market – the sharemarket is so often a relative game. That also goes for a positive view on a stock.

Finally, keep this in mind: you might be happy to hold on to an ”underperforming” stock because you’re investing for the long term: three or five years, or longer. Analysts, like much of the professional investment community, are often tied to the short term. Broker recommendations are just one piece of the investment puzzle.

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When banks bite back

April 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

‘NAB has repeatedly nabbed positive press by being the first to slash fees. This forced competitors to follow suit.’Feel free to bust out a little happy dance: Aussie consumers came that little bit closer last week to being able to reclaim more than $220 million in bank ”exception” fees.
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You know, fees for things like going overdrawn, bouncing a cheque or missing repayments.

Almost 200,000 consumers have joined a class action against eight banks arguing fees of $25 and even greater for such transgressions were excessive and tantamount to profiteering. The latest victory came courtesy of the High Court, in a test case against ANZ, which cleared the way by ruling the fees could be considered “penalties”.

The next step is to prove they’re excessive in comparison to the costs the breaches create.

And it’s somewhat incriminating that most institutions dropped them like a hot potato when the legal challenge – and controversy – started. Overdraft fees are typical of the cuts, moving from an average $30 to $10 (most late payment fees remain about $25).

In the meantime, perhaps in a bid to replace lost revenue, banks are raking in enormous amounts of money from different fees and dubious product pricing.

Here are the new clawbacks you need to combat.

ACCOUNT-KEEPING FEES

NAB has repeatedly nabbed positive press by being the first to slash fees – and it was the first to abolish transaction fees, too.

This forced competitors to follow suit such that fee-free banking is now a reality. So if you’re still paying a monthly fee for an all-you-can-eat-style transaction account, where all your transactions are free, you’re donating money to your bank.

Be aware though that the new, improved breed of transaction account still comes with pitiful interest rates so should be used for your short-term deposit and living expenses only.

ATM FEES

I was heartened recently to learn we’ve changed our withdrawal ways. So-called foreign-ATM fees – where you are now charged an average $2.50 for accessing your own money through a bank that’s not your own – have us so irked that we are actually walking further to our own ”hole in the wall”.

While 50 per cent of all ATM transactions were made at foreign ATMs before an explicit fee opt-in at the terminal was introduced in 2009, the Reserve Bank says by 2011 that had fallen to 40 per cent.

Apparently the reform got many of us pushing the ”cancel” button. But that’s still an annual outlay RateCity estimates at $660 million so we could do more. One of the cheapest ways to get cash is through eftpos when you make purchases.

Conduct serious research before going overseas though as often the charges for getting at your money – even credit – are astronomical. Look for partner institutions, cards that charge no or low international transaction fees, or converting your cash cheaply in Australia and risk it.

THE RATE WAIT

We are all on the edge of our seats now as we await the banks reaction to each official rate move. Much of the focus is logically on mortgages as this is often our biggest investment and largest debt: will rates fall by less than a cut, increase by more than a hike, or move entirely of their own accord?

Well, the same pricing shenanigans happen with savings accounts and credit cards, and on the latter the hoarding is horrendous. Recent research by Mozo shows credit card holders received only one-third of the cuts passed on to mortgage holders since the credit crack-up.

Your best comeback here is to never pay interest; to clear your card at the end of every month and use it for convenience only. Pay down that mortgage, too.

Be aware also that banks make and keep a fortune by delaying the start date of any rate changes, as well as the date on which they increase loan direct debits in particular.

It’s a little bit less in each of our pockets and a lot more in theirs so monitor your liabilities.

SAVINGS HOOPS

Much has been written about the comparatively high savings rates we are being promised as banks seek to secure our deposits and shore up their funding base. But they’ve also made it much harder to actually get them.

Enticing savings-account rates are valid either for very short periods or come with qualification conditions that mean you might never get them. No withdrawals; minimum monthly deposits; blue moons – or all three.

You need to strive to meet these, but if there’s the chance you won’t, sign up only to savings accounts with a high base rate – in other words, the rate you’ll get under any circumstances.

Nicole Pedersen-McKinnon  is the editor of afrsmartinvestor南京夜网.

Follow her on Twitter @NicolePedMcK.

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Game on for app makers

April 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Ee-Leng Chang and Chen-Po Sun. Murray Lorden.
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Working from their Carlton flat, husband-and-wife team Chen-Po Sun and Ee-Leng Chang are running a global business with a potential market in the hundreds of millions. All it takes is a great idea for an app and the Melbourne couple’s fortunes could be made.

Their unique selling point: felt. Sun and Chang are both software developers with a background in writing computer games, but Chang has another passion – handcrafted design, which they are using to give their quirky games a distinctive charm. If you’ve got an iPhone handy, you can download their first two releases, Cow Abduct! and Shuriken Chicken, right now from the Apple App Store (Shuriken Chicken includes a warning of ”Frequent/Intense Cartoon or Fantasy Violence”).

Since the end of last year, Murray Lorden has been working from his bedroom on the mezzanine level of a converted warehouse in Collingwood. As an indie developer, he has released his first game for the iPhone, Rad Skater Apocalypse, as a homage to the games he enjoyed while growing up in the 1980s. He’s now working on his second game – a detective-style ”thinking game” rather than an action game.

A decade ago, nobody had heard of ”apps”, the programs that for the price of a cup of coffee – or less – do useful or amusing things on your mobile phone or tablet.

Last year, Apple announced that the iTunes App Store had notched up its 10 billionth download; by March, that figure had hit 25 billion, with top titles including Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja and Doodle Jump.

The Finnish creators of Angry Birds, Rovio, announced in May that downloads of all the Angry Birds titles across different platforms had topped 1 billion, with half of those in the past six months.

Now people with the passion, ideas and skills are trying to get a piece of the action, sometimes setting up with as little as a laptop in a cafe. Science and art combine, and even computer qualifications are not compulsory.

Last year Tiny Wings, by self-taught German Andreas Illiger, became one of Apple’s top-10 paid apps.

Melburnians such as Sun are playing their part in the app revolution, although he says the decision for he and Chang to quit their IT jobs and launch their own apps business, Games for Gummie, was a tough one.

”It takes discipline, time and will power,” Sun says. ”If you go into it with an ‘I’m going to make the next Angry Birds’ mentality, you’ll probably fail. The early gold rush is definitely over. We knew we were setting ourselves up for a long grind. We now have to be much more frugal with our money and cut back on things.

”Previously, all I had to concentrate on was trying to be an awesome programmer; now there’s a whole lot of business stuff to deal with. It’s about time management and we find it hard to work regular hours.”

Working from home means spending ”an insane amount of time together”, Chang says, but they also face the difficulty of making headway in a saturated market. ”You’re constantly fighting to get people to hear about your product,” she says.

The ability to sell games to the owners of Apple, Android and Windows smartphones with the tap of a button, however, has revitalised the indie games industry.

Lorden’s decision to quit his day job was driven by a desire to explore his own creative vision rather than earn a wage working on someone else’s ideas. He learnt the ropes working for local gaming success stories Blue Tongue Entertainment and Firemint, where he worked on the smash-hit iPhone car-racing game Real Racing. Both Melbourne start-ups found success during the app gold rush and were later acquired by international gaming giants.

Blue Tongue has since been swallowed up by parent company THQ, while Electronic Arts recently merged Firemint with fellow Melbourne studio Iron Monkey to form Firemonkeys.

Lorden doesn’t expect to match the success of Real Racing, which featured prominently in Steve Jobs’ presentation when the iPad was launched two years ago, but instead relishes the opportunity to work on his own ideas.

”My job is to be a creative game designer, but at the big studios, I wasn’t always doing the sort of new and creative work I wanted to be doing,” Lorden says.

”The other side of the coin is that now I can’t rely on some great artist or programmer sitting next to me to do their thing. Nor can I rely on a marketing and business development team. I have to wear all those hats.”

Access to Apple’s developer program costs Lorden just $99 a year, unlike the thousands of dollars required to develop for some gaming platforms. As for the challenges of running his own business, Lorden has completed the government’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme business course, which covered areas such as writing a business plan, understanding cash-flow and tackling marketing.

Despite the success of an app such as Tiny Wings, it’s becoming much harder for indie developers to find success without experience under their belt, says Brad Giblin, the digital media manager with Film Victoria, which has been supporting the local games industry for 15 years.

Many exciting new projects are coming from independent lone developers and small teams, but Giblin says people tend to underestimate how difficult and competitive it is.

”The barrier to entry to the mobile app stores is incredibly low, but the likelihood of a complete amateur making an app that sells a million copies is almost zero these days,” he says. ”Most of the apps that tend to top charts are from experienced people. Even so, I believe the figures are somewhere around 95 per cent of titles make less than $1000.”

It’s a sobering statistic, but Melbourne’s games scene is nevertheless thriving – as shown by events such as the Freeplay Independent Games Festival taking place around Melbourne including at the State Library of Victoria, Federation Square, and Australian Centre for the Moving Image. ACMI is also hosting the Game Masters exhibition celebrating the world’s most influential game designers.

One of the hubs of the local indie games scene is the Melbourne chapter of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), which runs monthly social events and information nights with guest speakers. Independent game developers are finding more success thanks to the app-store model, which empowers them to go it alone, the event co-ordinator of IGDA Melbourne, Giselle Rosman, says.

The flow of developers away from the major games studios is not an indictment on the industry, but rather a reflection of creative people’s need to see their own ideas through to completion, she says.

”If you can achieve financial independence, that’s fantastic, but if it’s your primary motivation, you’re probably setting yourself up for disappointment,” Rosman says. ”Most people don’t make good money selling mobile games. You have to sell a lot of apps at 99¢, remembering that Apple takes a slice of the action. Trying to go it alone can be tough.”

Carlton-based Tin Man Games is one independent Melbourne app developer finding success. It’s looking to expand beyond the bedroom of technical director Ben Britten Smith into its own office space.

Smith is an Academy Award-winning special-effects artist who met his Australian wife while working in Melbourne on the Nicolas Cage blockbuster Ghost Rider. He started developing games as a hobby while waiting for his Australian work visa and later teamed up with Tin Man Games founder Neil Rennison.

With Rennison now living in Britain, Smith is the local head of the company, which has expanded to offer work to about 30 ”minions”.

”I was working in the film industry as a tiny little cog in a giant machine,” he says. ”That was fun for a while but it really grinds you down, just like my friends who were working for Electronic Arts or those other big games companies. So I left my job for a lot of the same reasons game developers do: I didn’t want to work on other people’s giant projects that I didn’t care about.”

Tin Man Games creates digital Gamebooks, similar to the Choose Your Own Adventure concept. Titles such as Gamebook Adventures 2: The Siege of the Necromancer and Gamebook Adventures 7: Temple of the Spider God are expensive for iPhone games at $6.49, but their success comes from targeting a niche audience.

Tin Man Games is ready to tackle the next level but Smith says the move to a separate office is not just a matter of space.

”I’m in a creative industry but you can’t be creative in a vacuum,” he says. ”You have to be around other people, so I try to go to a lot of industry events. Some of the reasons to move to this office space are just to be exposed to other people, to get the creative juices flowing.”

Back in Collingwood, Murray Lorden is realising that living the indie dream comes at a price. Without the safety net of a job, he’s discovering being his own boss can be a long and lonely road.

”I found that I’ve been asking the bigger questions about life because there’s no protection between me and life’s big challenges,” Lorden says.

”I’m confronting the challenges of seeing a successful game through from start to end, but I’m also asking where I want to be in five years. What am I trying to achieve here? What are my monetary goals and my lifestyle goals?

”I’ve been trying to figure out how to reach an equilibrium, a happy balance in my life. That’s probably the biggest challenge that I face, even though I’m doing what I love.”

Getting off to a flying start

Firemonkeys’ executive producer, Robert Murray, knows the lure of going it alone to follow your creative dreams. When his first Melbourne games company folded, he returned to a deferred engineering degree. He deferred again to work at Bayswater’s Torus Games, before going solo to subcontract games work.

Firemint was born as Murray picked up more work and began subcontracting work to others. Firemint’s own title, Real Racing, was in development when Apple opened up access to the app store.

To gain experience with the app store, Murray wrote Flight Control over the summer holidays. It went on to become one of Apple’s top-10 paid apps of all time. Its success helped fund the completion of Real Racing, which was also a hit and helped win Firemint an Australian export award.

”Starting today, you’ve got some tremendous advantages, but it’s hyper-competitive and much harder to meet people’s expectations of quality,” Murray says. ”You’d have to be an incredibly cross-talented individual with a lot of free time to invest. Even then, if you took too long, you’d probably fall behind the trends.

”If you view going out on your own as a lifestyle move, you’ve got it in reasonable perspective. Most of us got started because we wanted to make games. You’re going to have some hard times, so you’ve got to really want it.”

Last year, Firemint acquired the Melbourne game developer Infinite Interactive. Not long after, Firemint was itself acquired by US games giant Electronic Arts, which this year merged Firemint with fellow Melbourne studio IronMonkey to form Firemonkeys.

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There is no way this can end well

March 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Tragicomic touch … Mark Watson embraces serious subjects.Writers invariably look to their personal life for inspiration. Mark Watson has twin sisters, but he is adamant the sibling relationship in his latest novel, The Knot, is entirely the product of his imagination.
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”They are a lot younger than me so there can’t be any accusations that the book is autobiographical,” he says.

That is a relief, given Watson’s protagonists, Dominic, and his elder sister, Victoria, end up sleeping together. ”I wanted to explore a relationship not seen very often in literature,” the 32-year-old English author and comedian says.

Watson admits it was no easy feat portraying with sympathy two characters committing one of life’s greatest taboos. ”It’s one of the few areas of behaviour that can’t be forgiven or explained,” he says. ”It’s a challenge to make a likeable novel out of something people are instinctively put off by.”

Since Sophocles penned Oedipus the King and Antigone, writers have usually taken a dim view of sexual relationships between family members as either non-consensual or leading to disaster.

Yet Watson, who is best known in Australia as a stand-up comedian and is also a regular on British television, takes a different approach in his fifth novel.

The Knot opens in a country church, where the narrator, Dominic, a wedding photographer for 35 years, describes a typical English wedding. He also wearily observes: ”I have seen marriage vows broken on the same day they were made, witnessed a jilting at the altar … I don’t think there is anything that can happen at a wedding which I haven’t seen.”

Speaking with a gravelly voice from Edinburgh, where he has been performing his latest stand-up act, The Information, Watson says he has long toyed with writing about a wedding photographer, a marginal character in someone else’s drama.

Yet the drama in Dominic’s own life far outweighs the drunken grooms and nubile bridesmaids who populate his working days. The youngest of three children, Dominic lives in awe of his sister, Victoria, but is gently despised by brother, Max. His parents are typical of the interwar generation – hard-working and decent, but lacking emotion.

Watson says he deliberately cast Dominic as an underdog, a likeable if feckless person who is buffeted by events. ”I tried to stack things in Dom’s favour so there’d be room to side with him despite everything that goes on,” he says.

There is nothing graphic in Watson’s exploration of Dominic’s relationship with his older sister, which evolves over the novel from hero worship to lover, albeit briefly.

Indeed, Watson is at his most circumspect in describing the consummation of their relationship; like an ostrich with its head in the sand, Dominic shuts his eyes and brain and pretends the woman in his bed could be anybody but his sister: ”I clung on to these thoughts and let myself topple over the precipice.”

Watson says his failure to describe the sex act between brother and sister was not intended as a cop-out.

But, he adds: ”I couldn’t see a scenario where it wouldn’t be cringeworthy and unpleasant to read. I did feel on the whole that if I went into any more detail it would be that little bit too far for readers.”

Watson also deliberately avoids using the word incest. ”The book is about the narrator’s attempts to deal with temptation and then attempt to deal with the actual act,” he says.

But Watson does not allow his characters to avoid the consequences of their actions, although they do not suffer the calamity that befalls Oedipus, Antigone and most other fictional characters who indulge in such a relationship.

Dominic and Victoria are not the only characters hiding secrets in The Knot; no character emerges squeaky-clean by the end of Watson’s novel.

In the past, Watson has described his novels as serious and tragicomic, and The Knot certainly fits that description. Watson’s comedy shows, many of which he has performed in Australia, have touched on serious topics such as religion, climate change and cyber-fraud.

”I suppose with stand-up you have to go for the instant laughs,” he says.

”Even if I’m taking on more complex subjects, it’s still always about the punchlines.”

The Knot might be laden with characters carrying dark secrets but Watson’s life seems to be an open book. He proposed to his wife of six years, Emily Watson Howes, during a 24-hour comedy show at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004.

”I suppose a lot of my more annoying qualities were more obvious when we got married,” Watson says. ”Funnily enough, one thing I get pulled up on is that I don’t communicate very well.”

As for his sisters, Watson says one of them has read The Knot and ”she really liked it”. ”When she’s back we’ll have to discuss it in greater detail.”

The Knot by Mark Watson is published by Simon & Schuster, $29.99.

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Books that changed me: Helene Young

March 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Snugglepot and Cuddlepie – May Gibbs
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If a gardener can be made and not born, then Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are responsible for my green thumb. May Gibbs’s whimsical stories were the start of my love affair with the Australian bush. The Banksia men may have sent me skittering away from shadows, but they also made me look closely at the natural world.

The Margaret Fulton Cookbook

After a disastrous year in grade 8 home economics, Fulton’s simple recipes were a huge relief. It seemed I could cook after all. Her comfort food still makes my dinner guests close their eyes with delight. Those who tasted my early efforts now appreciate the 21st-century spin – bush-tucker berries are perfect with a decadent pavlova. (Those Banksia men have a lot to answer for!)

Puberty Blues – Kathy Lette and Gabrielle Carey

While my family thought I was destined to be a wife, mother and good cook, I had other ideas. As a surfboard-riding tomboy of the ’70s, reading Puberty Blues was the slap in the face I needed to break me out of my mould. I was incensed by the book’s inference that all young women in the surfing culture made bad choices and allowed themselves to be used by men.

The Fun of It – Amelia Earhart

Since surfing wasn’t a career option, I sought the advice of the school’s guidance counsellor. ”Nursing would be good,” she told me in response to my request for information on flying lessons. She didn’t know that aviation had fascinated me for years. Looking back over my 25-year career in aviation, I wonder where I’d be if I’d taken her advice instead of stubbornly following my dream.

Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte

Stubborn or not, at my heart I’m a romantic and Jane Eyre remains the ultimate love story. The wildness of the moors, the threads of mystery, the sense of impending doom, coupled with compelling internal and external conflicts – the heart of any good story – kept me riveted. Jane Eyre’s fortitude and Mr Rochester’s redemption on the road to finding love are examples of beautiful characterisation.

Helene Young is an Australian commercial airline pilot and author of the romantic suspense novels Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky. Her latest book is Burning Lies (Michael Joseph, $29.95). 

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

MICK: THE WILD LIFE AND MAD GENIUS OF JAGGERChristopher AndersenNewSouth Books, $34.99
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Forget the hoary question of whether you would let your daughter marry a Rolling Stone, the decision now is whether you’d let your mother read one of their biographies. Tawdry and decidedly lightweight, Christopher Andersen’s book about Mick Jagger, frontman for the group routinely described as the greatest rock’n’roll band of all time, is nearly as irrelevant as its subject’s intermittent solo career.

The Rolling Stones celebrated their 50th anniversary recently, with the band’s first gig taking place on July 12, 1962, at London’s Marquee Club, and this book ties in with that via an extended update of Andersen’s 1993 paperback, Jagger: Unauthorised (a book that is curiously absent from the published list of the author’s previous works). The presentation of this hardcover improves on its predecessor, but they’re both, in essence, lurid and repetitive reads.

Andersen, whose specialty is British and American royalty (the Windsors and Kennedys, respectively), focuses on Jagger’s sex life, identifying the one-time London School of Economics student as bisexual. The musician’s immense back catalogue gets short shrift: the classic 1971 album Sticky Fingers earns a paragraph, while Angelina Jolie, who strutted through a Stones video clip in 1997 and allegedly caught Jagger’s eye, receives five pages.

The book relies on a wealth of previously published material. Andersen hasn’t interviewed Stones talisman Keith Richards, but he’s read the guitarist’s autobiography, Life. The trials of Jagger’s career, such as gaining control of the band’s finances and his creative relationships with Richards, are referenced without insight, making way for a list of male and female conquests that grows astronomical through suggestion.

Andersen’s problem is that, at the age of 69, Jagger has long been well defined. A compelling frontman turned preening showman on the stage, and a ruthless careerist with a social chameleon’s skills off it, Jagger’s played the anti-establishment provocateur and then accepted a knighthood, and apart from when the Rolling Stones are engaged in selling out stadiums, he’s simply a famous face with more lines than you remember.

At a certain point, roughly when Andersen has Jerry Hall seeing off Carla Bruni in the 1990s, the endless listing of Jagger’s assignations and the text’s uninformed, moralistic tone manages to render Jagger a sympathetic figure. Andersen links Jagger with the late Princess Margaret, suggests Princess Diana was intrigued and even shoehorns Pippa Middleton in, and, if nothing else, it makes you appreciate Jagger’s fortitude.

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

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Bookshop

March 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

SHADOW OF THE ROCKThomas Mogford, Bloomsbury, $29.99
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The successful detective novel depends on the interplay between the setting, crime and characters. Here the background is unusual, for Mogford writes of Gibraltar and Tangier. A Sephardic Jew is accused of murdering an heiress in Morocco. He flees to the Rock and an old lawyer friend, Spike. Old forms of corruption meet new technologies, but misogyny still reigns. A new, intriguing voice, but the setting is so intense, it’s overpowering.

SOME REMARKSNeal Stephenson, Atlantic, $32.99

Stephenson the novelist’s forte is technology and its history. Here he sidesteps into shorter form, collecting several stories, essays and interviews. They range typically widely. Arsebestos is about the physical dangers of sitting. Elsewhere, he takes a geek’s tour of the world, following fibre-optic cables. He shines when connecting the techie dots. His novels can be interminable, so these small bites are attractive, quickly consumed.

NORWEGIAN BY NIGHTDerek B. Miller, Scribe, $32.95

Miller’s debut novel takes some unlikely ingredients that, when thrown together, work. Sheldon Horowitz is 82, an ex-marine, proudly Jewish-American. He relocates to Norway for family. An act of violence reawakens his fighting skills and his conscience. Suddenly he is on the run in a foreign land, with a small child in tow. He is also at the stage of early dementia. Add some Kosovar villains and a dogged detective, and the novel becomes utterly compelling.

BOOK THAT CHANGED ME: Helene Young

SNUGGLEPOT AND CUDDLEPIEMay Gibbs

If a gardener can be made and not born, then Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are responsible for my green thumb. May Gibbs’ whimsical stories were the start of my love affair with the Australian bush. The Banksia men may have sent me skittering away from shadows, but they also made me look closely at the natural world.

Helene Young is an Australian commercial airline pilot and award-winning author of the romantic suspense novels Wings of Fear and Shattered Sky. Her latest book is Burning Lies (Michael Joseph, $29.95).

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

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Say You’re Sorry

March 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

Australian author Michael Robotham.SAY YOU’RE SORRYMichael RobothamSphere, $29.99
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Mention Oxford and most of us think of the university’s dreaming spires, the quaint pubs and historic tourist trails, so effectively used on television as Morse and Lewis track a wayward student, a mysterious bluestocking or desperate don.

Yet not so far from all of this picturesque splendour are smaller, lesser known and more typical towns, some with housing estates on their fringes that could just as easily be found in any of England’s big cities. These towns and estates are peopled by a more usual cross-section of English society: the well-to-do, ordinary workers, strugglers, the poorly educated, and, alas, gangs and drug dealers.

It is this latter milieu that Australian Michael Robotham largely mines in his latest novel, Say You’re Sorry, again featuring Joe O’Loughlin, psychologist and criminal profiler. O’Loughlin is a refreshingly unusual crime investigator, not for being separated – pretty usual in this genre – but for suffering the early stages of Parkinson’s disease.

O’Loughlin is travelling by train to Oxford from London in winter, accompanied by his teenage daughter, Charlie, to deliver a lecture. As the train nears Oxford, it passes a group of police removing a young woman’s body from a frozen lake.

Unbeknown to O’Loughlin, he will soon be involved in the unexpectedly resurrected case of the missing ”Bingham Girls”, two teenagers who disappeared from nearby Bingham three years earlier, for the body in the lake turns out to be that of Natasha ”Tash” McBain, one of the pair – and she only died recently.

So where had Tash been during the ensuing time? Given that she survived until recently, could her best friend, Piper Hadley, who disappeared with her, still be alive? And if so, where is she?

As the revived case gets under way, overshadowed by a double murder that may or may not be connected, old ground is revisited and new avenues explored.

Initially, O’Loughlin is employed by the police to profile the perpetrator of the double murder, but he’s then brought in to the Bingham Girls case. This second case will touch him in a personal way through Charlie, who is feisty and difficult at times.

Robotham tells his tale with parallel narratives. One is O’Loughlin’s, in which we accompany him, his former police offsider and the local force in the renewed investigation. The other is the writings of Piper, from which we learn about her, Tash, their families, friends and relationships.

Employing these dual storylines generally works well, as they deliver two aspects of the same case and allow, through Piper’s words, an insight into parts of it that are unknown to O’Loughlin and the police. This also maintains a running tension as you don’t know whether Piper’s story will turn out to have been told by a girl who is still alive or one we will discover to be dead.

As effective as this duality is for the most part, having Piper still telling her story towards the end of the novel tends to upset the book’s overall narrative balance. It may have been more effective for the author to have ended Piper’s tale before the extremely gripping climax begins.

Despite this, Robotham has provided a first-rate psychological thriller containing a disturbing and menacing central story flanked by acute observations about people under stress and how they react.

The well-drawn characters on either side of the crime make fine supports for a wounded hero in a wounded world.

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

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Discounting Watson would be elementary error

February 10th, 2019 / / categories: 南京夜网 /

A decade ago, five-time British Open Champion Tom Watson was one of the headline acts on his last visit to this part of the world for the Australian Masters and we questioned, at his then age of 53, if his appearance was purely ceremonial.
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He bristled at the suggestion. “What am I? 44-1. I’d be worth a few dollars,” he said with a smile. Well, actually he was paying $51, but those who took his advice did their money. With rounds of 73-77-70-74 he finished tied 46th behind Peter Lonard, who beat Gavin Coles and Adam Scott in a play-off.

Now, the 63-year-old Watson will surely be asked the same question when he arrives for the Australian Open at The Lakes in early December.

Almost certainly appearance money has changed hands, so is Golf Australia banking on the nostalgia factor or can he genuinely contend for the title he won at Royal Melbourne back in 1984? He would be prohibitive odds to make the cut, and rightfully so.

Three years ago, at Turnberry, Watson nearly won a sixth British Open to equal the legendary Harry Vardon. He missed a three-metre putt on the 72nd hole and was then beaten in a four-hole play-off by Stewart Cink. This year at Royal Lytham and St Anne’s he made his 35th cut in the open but eventually finished tied 77th.

At The Lakes, I would not dismiss him from calculations. His swing is as sweet as ever and the course measures 6264 metres, far shorter than championship layouts these days, so Watson would not be seriously disadvantaged against the younger brigade.

So, call his visit ceremonial at your peril and also marvel at an ageless, gracious champion of the past, maybe even the present.

MAJOR ATTRACTIONS

The drip feed of player announcements for our major tournaments this summer has started with last year’s US Masters winner, South African Charl Schwartzel, and American Jason Dufner announced for the $2 million Perth International at Lake Karrinyup next month, and former US Open champion Graeme McDowell and defending champion Ian Poulter confirmed for the Australian Masters. Adam Scott is playing in Perth plus at the Masters and the Open, while Greg Chalmers is defending both the Open and PGA, events that Geoff Ogilvy will also contest. Greg Norman has played the Open for the past three years as part of his contract with Destination NSW and while his association with the state government’s tourism arm continues, he will not be playing in the Open, but rather the Shark Shootout in the US due to a clash of dates. Norman will, though, be at Coolum for the PGA Championship.

THE $100 MILLION MAN

The first cheque Jack Nicklaus ever won as a professional golfer, $33.33 for tied 50th in the 1962 Los Angeles Open, was never cashed and is mounted in a display case in the Jack Nicklaus Museum in Columbus, Ohio, but apparently Tiger Woods didn’t keep his first pay cheque for posterity. It was for tied 60th in the Greater Milwaukee Open in September 1996 and how his fortune has amassed since then. Last weekend, Woods finished tied third behind Rory McIlroy in the Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston and his cheque for $US544,000 ($526,375) took him past the $US100 million mark. The PGA Tour stats department tells us it took Woods 277 tournaments to accumulate that amount, averaging $US362,276 in each event, while Sam Snead who won 82 tournaments, eight more that Woods’s 74, collected a total of $US820,000 in his career that spanned from 1937 until 1979.

PLAYING FAVOURITES

Next week is the final women’s major of the year, the Women’s British Open at Royal Liverpool, and seven Australians are exempt – Karrie Webb, Katherine Hull, Rebecca Artis, Stacey Keating, Karen Lunn, Sarah-Jane Smith and Lindsey Wright. If an Australian doesn’t win, and that is looking at it parochially, may it be two who we’d regard as honorary Aussies – Laura Davies, who seems to regard our country as a second home, or 15-year-old Kiwi Lydia Ko, who just a few weeks ago became the youngest winner of an LPGA event.

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

Champion hoop Greg Ryan and owner-trainer Graham Payne are poised for revenge with Kinetics in today’s $25,000 Black Nugget Cup (1600 metres) at Mudgee. The gelding has won nine times and finished a close second to Pesci in last year’s event. Kinetics is coming off a fifth to Poor Judge in the Moree Cup but Payne said forget the run. Previously, the six-year-old scored at Scone and four starts back won the Wauchope Cup. Meanwhile, Moruya hold a seven-race meeting today featuring the $20,000 Club Keno Cup and $17,000 Stayers Cup.
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BOOKIES HIT FOR SIX

A group of first-time owners and members of the Ganmain Cricket Club left bookmakers reeling at Parkes last Saturday following the win of A Little Alert. Ganmain is a small town near Wagga noted for its chaff production. The 13 owners unleashed on the Brad Witt-trained debutante, backing her from $3.20 into $1.50 favouritism. The group hit just about every bagman, one bookmaker’s last bet was $500 at $1.30. Ridden by Joel Maconachie, the daughter of Alert and Aurora Blue strolled home in the 800m maiden by two lengths much to the cricketers’ delight.

RARE FEAT BY PHILLIPS

South coast jockey Tim Phillips joined the likes of Athol Mulley, Greg Ryan, Len Harris, Graeme Birney, Bill Aspros and Doug Weir when he rode the entire program at Marthaguy picnics held at Quambone last Saturday. Phillips, 39, won the five-race card on She’s A Cutie, Maximum Vision, Spinning Yarns, the Quambone Picnic Cup on Orbit and King Con, all at short odds. The last of the 47 jockeys to achieve the feat was Greg Ryan at Parkes on August 26, 2006.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Reader David Kelley from Cooma makes a valid point in regards to programming and community race clubs. “Old-timers point to paddocks around the Monaro district and talk about race meetings held there years ago, more recently Cooma, Bombala and Adaminaby had multiple meetings, which have now been whittled back to one meeting each a year each. In recent years, field sizes have been an issue but the biggest problem has been attracting enough jockeys, a case in point was at Cooma two meetings ago when horses had to be scratched because there were no jockeys to ride them. And the reason I primarily write to you now – the Gundagai three-day carnival over a Thursday, Friday and Saturday in November each year – has this year been moved and clashes with the once-a-year meeting at Adaminaby. On a geographical issue and logistics in this area, I can assure you Gundagai will take horses, and particularly jockeys, away from Adaminaby. Why do programmers not consider this when setting dates? It has occurred previously here where Cooma and Bombala have a once-a-year meeting scheduled only to have nearby Queanbeyan and Canberra have a meeting the day before or in such proximity. The three small clubs mentioned all have voluntary committees who work hard to give the community racing. If country racing keeps stepping backwards at such a rate as it has in the last 20 years, there will be more paddocks where race meetings used to be held.”

TAB meetings: Today – Moruya, Mudgee. Monday – Albury, Coffs Harbour. Tuesday – Queanbeyan, Tamworth. Friday – Ballina, Canberra. Saturday – Armidale.

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