Monthly Archives: October 2018

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Shacktastic!

Indulgence winner … Toraja Luxury just outside Byron Bay.Getting away from it all? Not any more — we want holiday homes that have it all, writes Belinda Jackson.
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For generations of Aussies, summer holidays always started with a long, “I spy”-dominated drive to the beach. The accommodation was either a caravan park, where kids ran rampant from dawn until dusk and the queue at the shower block was the essential meeting place, or the classic beach shack, built on a shoestring and furnished with the cast-offs from the family home.

We’ve always loved our beach shacks: hidden from view on the white-sand beaches of the NSW south coast or up in idyllic Byron Bay, you’ll see them among the dunes along the South Australian coastline, tucked away down sandy lanes on the Bellarine and Mornington peninsulas, so laid-back they’re almost horizontal.

Stayz, a division of Fairfax Media, recently held its annual awards for the best holiday rentals in seven categories including best for pets, romance, families and eco-friendliness, as well as a people’s choice. Judged by a panel of travel industry experts with guest ratings and reviews in the mix, the results are an eye-opener.

These days the locations are different: we’re not just running to the beach any more. Sure, there are winners in Noosa, Byron Bay and on Culburra Beach, just outside Nowra, but there are also winners in the Victorian foodie region around Kyneton, in the genteel NSW southern highlands and another on the sleepy east Gippsland coastline.

“The mix of holiday homes is changing,” says Anton Stanish, general manager of Stayz. “We’ve also got more inner-city serviced apartments, especially on the Gold Coast. They’re so convenient for fly-in holidaymakers. And we’ve got more unique properties.”

Choose your dream: a tree-house? A castle? A lighthouse? Or a yurt? A train carriage or go underground to a subterranean B&B? You might need a jetty for your own boat, or helicopter access for a particularly dramatic arrival. While the shape of the holiday house has changed, so have our requirements.

Nowadays, remember to take your iPad and smartphones, Stanish says. Far from getting away from it all, a huge percentage of holiday homes now have Wi-Fi. We’re holidaying differently: we expect great beds, pay-TV and internet access. We’re out to “enjoy ourselves” and “we’re no longer doing hardship”, he says.

With the rise in demand comes the rise in agents happy to supply, and not just traditional real estate agents. The last year has seen a rush of activity among the online players, which include behemoth Stayz, which has more than 40,000 properties on its books, HomeAway南京夜网.au with 19,000 holiday listings, and wotif南京夜网, which launched a dedicated holiday homes service in March 2012. Newcomer Airbnb, which lets people advertise not only their homes but also rooms, launched in Australia late last year, and has gone public about its intention to take on Stayz in the holiday rentals market.

With such choice available, you need to choose carefully. Think about what you’d use the property for: obviously, a couple chasing romance doesn’t need to pay for a two-bedroom house and if you’re a large group, check that there are enough bathrooms for you all.

Groups also need to ensure they have enough transport, especially if you’re booking a country house, such as a Victorian farmhouse B&B.

If you want to eat in a different restaurant every night, is a country retreat really for you, or would it be better basing yourself in a foodie town, such as the beloved spa town of Daylesford, Victoria, where you can totter home afterwards, bypassing the need for a designated driver? And while pool fences are compulsory in Australia, it also goes without saying that kids and cliff-top retreats don’t mix.

If you’re packing the pets, check that the local beaches or parks are leash-free: in summer, many beaches ban dogs in daylight hours. Hound-friendly holiday homes are on the increase and the advantage for holiday home owners is that dog owners are a sturdy bunch, with the market not so reliant on good weather.

“Many dog owners are happy to get a break from the city all year around to give their dogs a run, so dog-friendly holiday rentals are becoming increasingly popular,” says Stephen Nicholls, Fairfax Media’s national Domain editor and property trend-watcher.

However simple or complex your wishes, at the end of the day, it’s still a holiday. We’ve come a long way for the best getaway. In many properties, you’ll also find quality linen supplied, brand toiletries, top-brand coffee machines… all the lovely things we may not necessarily have at home.

You can tick off the five key factors that make a good holiday home: uniqueness, good value, the right space and size, exclusivity of use and that old real estate mantra, location, location, location.

Once upon a time, you just added water – think beaches, rivers or lakes – to make the perfect holiday home. Now, we expect dependable internet, luxury linen, professionally kitted-out kitchens and a plethora of entertainment options from restaurant strips to theme parks and, of course, a great beach.

The great Australian getaway definitely has changed as our households have changed, with more singles on the move, as well as couples young and old without kids. Holidaymakers, as Nicholls points out, want to travel with their pets, with a group of mates, or take a holiday that leaves a lighter footprint on the planet.

Families are also more adventurous – no staying at home just because we have young children, and thanks to rising petrol costs, lower airfares and more services to regional airports, many visitors will arrive at their destination by plane rather than a long road trip through countless country towns. Baby boomers are happily blowing their children’s inheritance on holidays, while the core holiday home market – inter-generational travel, which sees grandparents holidaying with all their kids – has always been a key holiday rental market.

While villa rentals are on-trend in our favourite international destinations such as Bali and Thailand, Australia’s stepping up to the plate; which is particularly timely as our obsession with overseas travel is set to wane as our dollar winds back recent gains.

Building on our existing love of a beach shack, those holiday homes are now a bit glossier, more polished, with matching linen and chic, gingham-checked breakfast baskets featuring sumptuous piles of regional produce.

Something that hasn’t changed is that the most popular spots for holiday homes remain within 2½ hours’ drive of our capital cities. “That’s about as long as young families with two kids in the back seat can tolerate for a weekend break,” Nicholls says.

For Sydneysiders, the south coast is a hot locale. Destination NSW says the most popular spot in the state for Sydney short-break holidaymakers is the south coast, with 23 per cent of us heading there, while the north coast gets 17 per cent of the traffic, and the Hunter Valley 15 per cent. The beach towns of Hyams Beach, Nowra and Huskisson remain popular as well as Nicholls’ personal favourite, Jervis Bay, right on the 2½-hour mark.

While it’s traditionally quiet in the middle of winter, Todd Gallant from Hyams Beach Real Estate says the beachside spot, which sells itself as having the whitest sand in the world, is increasingly popular with holidaymakers, though official tourism figures show its biggest rival is NSW’s north coast, with tourist traffic to Byron Bay currently booming, and we’re not even talking about across the border to the holiday mecca that is Noosa.

Not quite as far away from Sydney, Pacific Palms – specifically Blueys Beach – is just under three hours’ drive north of Sydney on the appropriately named Holiday Coast, a strong lure for time-poor north shore holidaymakers.

As the six-week summer holiday fades into a nostalgic haze, the long weekender continues to rise in popularity: four-day mini-breaks are hot right now.

For a full-list of the winners of this year’s Stayz Group Holiday Rental Awards, see stayz南京夜网.au.

HOW TO CHOOSE THE IDEAL HOLIDAY HOME

BOOK WELL AHEAD

In peak times, such as Christmas, school holidays and the ski season, houses can be booked out 12 months in advance. Otherwise, allow at least three months.

GO OFF-PEAK

Most properties have midweek specials and some beach areas drop their prices in the colder months or throw in an extra night free. Traditionally, May is the slowest month.

BE ADD-ON AWARE

Many owners add special touches, particularly in their downtime, such as breakfast baskets filled with home-made jams and eggs from their own hens, or a bottle of local wine on arrival.

STAY LONGER

Some properties have two-night minimum stays on the weekends, and up to seven-night minimum stays in the peak seasons. Staying two weeks usually attracts a lower rate.

GET MOBILE

If you’re flying in, book your car at the same time, so you’re not left stranded on the ground.Stay with the stars

Our top picks of the Stayz 2013 holiday rental winners.

INDULGENCE WINNER

Toraja Luxury, NSW

A luxury pad with 180-degree ocean panoramas just outside Byron Bay. Sleeps six.

Who goes there? Honeymooners and lovers (of each other and of luxury).

When to go All year round thanks to the swimming pool, open fireplace, outdoor lounges and gourmet kitchen.

Must-visit local attraction The sparkling beaches of Broken Head and Lennox Head.

Guest comment “The pool area is a beautiful spot to while away the hours … the verandah [and all of the windows in the house] look out over rolling green pastures to the sea.”

Trip notes From $470 to $1100, minimum three nights, stayz南京夜网.au/115047.

ROMANCE WINNER

Liptrap Loft, Vic

A rustic shack in Walkerville, south Gippsland. Sleeps six.

Who goes there? Bushies for privacy and a Japanese bathhouse.

When to go Summer for the beach, winter for the whales and their calves in Waratah Bay for R&R.

Must-visit local attraction Wilson’s Promontory, 30 minutes away, is a naturist’s delight.

Guest comment “Eccentric in a beautiful way, the furniture is a delight.We will return in winter to hunker down with the fire and listen to nature’s best.”

Trip notes From $190 to $265 a night, minimum two nights, stayz南京夜网.au/22270.

OUTDOOR WINNER

The Evening Star, Vic

A polished two-bedroom cottage outside Bright, in the Victorian High Country. Sleeps four.

Who goes there? Mountain lovers, bike riders, kids over 10 years old.

When to go Autumn for the colour.

Must-visit local attraction Bright’s foodie scene and Hotham’s ski fields are 45 minutes away.

Guest comment “Deafening silence, crisp mountain air and amazing views from a gorgeous house where all the little touches have been added.”

Trip notes From $250 (weekdays) to $400 (weekends) a night, minimum two nights, stayz南京夜网.au/19289.

ECO-FRIENDLY WINNER

Riversdale Retreat, Vic

A super-slick eco-cottage at Chewton, near Castlemaine. Sleeps three.

Who goes there? Melbourne foodies. Shortlisted for the World Architecture Festival Awards 2009.

When to go Great for a cold-weather getaway.

Must-visit local attraction Daylesford and the restaurants and vintage shopping in Kyneton and Castlemaine.

Guest comment “It felt a bit like a groovy city pad in the middle of the bush. Even honoured by visits from kangaroos and red-bellied robins. Enjoyed bushwalking and the marvellous Chewton market.”

Trip notes Costs $220 a double (Monday-Thursday), $265 (Friday-Sunday), minimum two nights, stayz南京夜网.au/66476.

PET FRIENDLY WINNER

Noosa Holiday House, Qld

A three-story house at Castaways Beach, near Noosa. Sleeps eight.

Who goes there? Pet-owning design lovers.

When to go A minute from the beach, summer is hugely popular.

Must-visit local attraction The restaurant strip at Sunshine Beach; Peregian Beach design markets.

Guest comment “With the home being on three levels, we were able to have time to ourselves and our children loved the free Wi-Fi. Dog loved the backyard … lots of great bush, beach and rainforest walks.”

Trip notes From $550 to $900 a night, minimum five nights, stayz南京夜网.au/55345.

Stayz is a division of Fairfax Media.

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

US retail struggles amid supposed recovery

From Wal-Mart Stores and Gap to Macy’s and McDonald’s, chains that cater to middle- and lower-income Americans say they are feeling the pinch of an uneven economic recovery.
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A host of retailers have reported tepid sales lately, highlighting the stress that consumers are feeling because of higher payroll taxes, expensive gasoline and a slow job market four years after the US economy started to rebound.

“Everyone wants to talk about recovery – it’s like the unrecovery,” Susquehanna Financial Group analystBob Summers said following the Wal-Mart results. “The demographic that they cater to, not only has it not seen improvement, I would argue that things have gotten worse.”

Look no further than Macy’s for a snapshot of the consumer. For its namesake mid-tier department stores, Macy’s reported the first decline in same-store sales in nearly four years this week, and said shoppers had been gravitating to its less expensive items. That’s a contrast with Macy’s upscale Bloomingdale’s, which came in with strong results.

The trend also turns up in results posted on Thursday by Wal-Mart, which emphasizes low pricing. Its US sales at stores open at least a year unexpectedly fell 0.3 per cent last quarter, a second decline in a row, prompting the world’s largest retailer to lower its sales forecast for the year.

Last week, a group of US retailers including Costco Wholesale and Gap reported modest gains in July same-store sales, thanks largely to bargains.

Adding to the pressure, Macy’s said many shoppers are redirecting their spending to their cars, housing and home improvement.

Automakers reported a 14 per cent US sales increase in July from a year earlier, industry consultant Autodata Corp said.

Wall Street analysts expect home improvement chain Home Depot to report same-store sales rose 7 per cent, the biggest gain of any major retailer Thomson Reuters tracks.

Outside of home improvement and cars, many retailers say economic conditions were less than ideal.

In July, US employers slowed their pace of hiring, with the number of jobs outside of farming increasing less than economists expected.

The average price for a gallon of gasoline in the United States was still high: at the end of July, it was $US3.67 compared to $US3.51 a year earlier, according to the Lundberg survey.

As of May, 47.6 million Americans, or one in seven, received food aid – highlighting the ongoing strain on Americans struggling to make ends meet. That was 1.1 million more than a year earlier, and 7 million more than in 2010.

Real wages are also stagnating: they fell 0.1 per cent between June 2012 and June 2013, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, excluding inflation and civil servants and military personnel.

“The consumer doesn’t quite have the discretionary income, or they’re hesitant to spend what they do have,” Wal-Mart Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley told reporters on a call.

A recent government report showed 5.7 per cent of Americans who had jobs in July could not get enough hours to qualify as full-time workers, the same per centage as in June.

While the unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the last year, the share of part-time workers who want more hours has barely dropped, according to BLS statistics.

“Workers are not doing well,” said Elizabeth Ashack, an economist at the BLS. “They’re losing ground because wages are not growing in real terms.”

Teen employment levels are down this summer, and that may be contributing to same-store sales declines at Aeropostale and American Eagle Outfitters.

Spending on essentials

The latest batch of retail reports shows the ways in which customers are pulling back again.

Macy’s said shoppers at its namesake chain were holding back on anything nonessential, adding it didn’t expect to make up the sales shortfall this year and cut its forecasts.

Kohl’s said comparable sales had slid for purchases paid for with a credit card, transactions typically made by people on a budget. And both Wal-Mart and Costco said sales of higher-ticket items such as electronics and games have been soft.

Several companies have said shoppers are waiting longer to buy back-to-school items, suggesting they are waiting for deals and that they see no urgency to hit stores.

This week’s results may presage more of the same next week, when big chains like Target, J.C. Penney and Sears report earnings.

In May, Target cut its profit forecast after weak sales, and this week Wells Fargo lowered its profit estimates for the discounter saying Target was unlikely to have been spared by the pullback in spending.

The S&P Index retail was down 1.9 per cent on Thursday, and many retail experts predicted it will be slow going for the industry for a while.

“The US consumer is weary in this turnaround. It has been quite anemic, relatively speaking. I think many of them just don’t see it on Main Street,” said Eric Beder at Brean Capital LLC.

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

Garry Lyon Who can be lucky losers?

I have no idea whether Essendon will compete in this year’s finals series. Which is a staggering thing to say, given there are just three games remaining in the 2013 season.
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But while there is a possibility that the sanctions handed down to the Bombers, in the wake of the charges laid this week, will include the loss of premiership points, there is the reality that, for the first time, nine may indeed go into eight.

And yes, those clubs that are sitting outside the top eight at the moment would only be participating in September by default, but, so what? These are unprecedented circumstances that we are dealing with, and if you think that the coaches and players of Carlton, West Coast, North Melbourne and Adelaide are going to feel bad about replacing Essendon, if that’s how the cards fall, then you are sadly mistaken.

Or, you should be, if your club has the ruthless, “never give a sucker an even break” mentality that premiership clubs are defined by. There is the possibility, in the next fortnight, that one of these clubs is going to be handed the golden ticket that has a coveted second chance at finals success attached to it.

And there is only one way that fortunate club can approach this situation. And that is to greedily embrace the twist of fate that delivers it to football’s promised land.

There is no time to dwell on the regretful circumstances that have dominated this season from start to finish.

The fact is, while none of the Blues, Eagles, Kangaroos or Crows have played consistently enough, or been able to convert match-winning leads into victories to qualify for this year’s finals series, they may very well arrive there by default.

And if they do, it is clearly the Kangaroos and the Eagles that the team that occupies fifth position on the ladder, would least like to confront.

Brad Scott has already publicly embraced the possibility of good fortune shining down on his team and would relish the opportunity to salvage something from a what-could-have-been season for his side.

Just maybe it can, in the space of a couple of weeks of finals football, turn that year into something truly memorable.

No side would relish the prospect of taking on a Kangaroos side that has been freshly handed a reprieve.

What they would encounter is a side that has a nothing-to-lose mentality, and one that should be encouraged to play with a freedom and an attacking mentality that, when executed properly, is as difficult to defy as most football played this season.

Just ask Richmond, which suffered its biggest loss for the season at the hands of the Roos just six weeks ago. It was virtually powerless to stop North’s blistering counter-attack football and succumbed to the tune of 62 points in round 15 at Etihad Stadium.

That was the Roos at their best. Big forwards Robbie Tarrant and Aaron Black hit the scoreboard; their defence kept Jack Riewoldt and Tyrone Vickery under control and their midfield group took the honours over the highly rated Tiger group.

And then, two weeks ago, they inflicted Geelong’s fourth loss of the year at the same venue, with the class acts of Brent Harvey and Daniel Wells leading the way.

On this occasion, they were challenged by a side that, admirably and rightfully arrogantly, thinks it is its right to win any sort of a dogfight, on any occasion, against any opposition.

But not this time, with the Roos unloading a monkey off their back, hanging on to a lead that they had worked hard to maintain all night.

North Melbourne would be a terribly dangerous wildcard in the event a replacement was needed for the Bombers.

The consensus among its opposition is that it is a very dangerous attacking outfit, one of the very best in the league, but there are question marks over its ability to work both ways and to add that defensive steel that most successful finals outfits possess.

I’m not sure they would be too comfortable putting that theory to the test in the first week of September.

The other side that would put shivers down the other seven sides in the eight would be the Eagles. Not, it has to be pointed out, on their output this season. They boast only a single victory over a top eight side, against the Bombers last weekend.

Their other eight wins have come against bottom 10 sides. But it is that dreaded word, “potential”, that would have sides looking over their shoulders.

A couple of weeks ago I was of the opinion that the Eagles’ season was over.

They went down to the Dockers in the derby and then the Swans the following week.

Nic Naitanui was finally rested against the Western Bulldogs, Darren Glass didn’t play, due to “soreness”, players like Cale Morton and Scott Lycett were given a chance, and when they went down by 22 points it appeared that the Eagles were done and dusted.

Add to that the speculation that John Worsfold might not have had the drive to carry on and the hot pre-season premiership favourites looked likely to limp to the line and, unbelievably, miss out on the finals.

A couple of weeks can be a long time in football. Woosha looks set to re-sign for another couple of years, Glass, Mark LeCras, Matty Priddis and Chris Masten have all come back into the side, Dean Cox has turned the clock back with a couple of vintage performances and now the whispers are that big Nic Nat may not be done for the year after all.

And, pointedly, Cox publicly declared that the Eagles would have no qualms about stepping in for the Bombers should the need arise, and that they would jump at the chance to do some damage in September.

As is increasingly the case, it’s the sides that are playing their best football at the right time of the year who prove the most formidable. It would be stretching the point to suggest that the Eagles, on the back of successive wins over the Suns and the Bombers, are back to their imposing best, but the prospect remains.

With Cox, Jack Darling, Priddis, Masten, LeCras, Josh Kennedy, Andrew Gaff, Sharrod Wellingham and Scott Selwood playing some of their best football of the year, they loom as one of the most dangerous eighth-qualified team of recent years.

Of course, this could all be speculation, if this Essendon saga finds its way into the courts.

But I think it’s one of the most fascinating, potential fallouts of this whole mess if, say, the Eagles or the Roos were able to win their way through until preliminary final week, on the back of a team losing all of their premiership points for the first time in history.

With the sort of year we’ve had, you wouldn’t bet against it.

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

New evidence backs Dons’ Mexico link

Fresh evidence has emerged confirming reports that some Essendon players were given an unknown supplement sourced from Mexico, with the club backing away from its claim on Thursday that this did not occur.
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Multiple sources have today confirmed that evidence collected by ASADA includes information that the substance given to some Essendon players was sourced in Mexico. This includes an interview investigators conducted with the muscular dystrophy patient who was given the supplement overseas and brought it to Australia.

Fairfax Media has further confirmed that Essendon is still unable to state with certainty what was in the supplement, although the club believes it most likely contained a mixture of safe amino acids.

Today, Fairfax Media published comments that Essendon lawyer Tony Hargreaves made on Thursday and which challenged earlier reports that some players had been given an unknown supplement sourced in Mexico from a man with a muscle wasting disease.

Mr Hargreaves said he had made his Thursday comments after he had spoken to the patient in question and had been told that supplements were sourced from a neurosurgeon in the United States.

But this afternoon, Mr Hargreaves said he had received fresh information today.

“The information I based the request for a retraction on was based on a conversation I had [with a party closely involved in this matter] on Thursday. Since that time, further information has arrived that cast some doubt on whether what I was told was accurate.’’

Fairfax Media has confirmed that evidence gathered by investigators and referred to in the AFL-ASADA report states that the patient told ASADA that he had purchased supplements in both Mexico and over the border.

The evidence gathered to date also confirms that some players were given supplements suspected to have been sourced from Mexico.

A source closely involved in the drugs scandal today questioned why Essendon had sought to publicly challenge the original story rather than confront the real issue it raised: the fact that players had been given a supplement whose contents was, and remains, unknown.

The shifting claims about the provenance of the drugs also highlights the way that much of the information surrounding the scandal is heavily contested.

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

Pearson second fastest in heats

Sally Pearson has run her fastest time of the year to comfortably advance to the semi finals at the world championships and confidently begin her world title defence.
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Threateningly though the young American Brianna Rollins, who has burst onto the scene this year running the third fastest time ever, ran the quickest time of any of the heat winners to lay down the challenge to Pearson.

And on the field Australia’s Kim Mickle threw a new personal best 65.73m – the second biggest throw by an Australian woman ever – to automatically advance to the finals of the javelin where she joins Kathryn Mitchell who also advanced when she managed a season’s best throw of 62.8 metres.

Pearson ran a promising 12.62 seconds to easily win her heat at the Moscow World Athletics Championships and go through to the finals on Sunday morning (AEST).

“I was a bit more nervous than normal, because I think I wanted to get it right and I didn’t get it right at the start,” Pearson said.

“It was good to feel myself again I just have a bit of tidying up to do at the end of the race but that will come I think it is just because I have been waiting so long, two days off before training before this.

“It was a season’s best, I thought I would run faster but I screwed up the last hurdle and a half – if you can do that – I just have to make it cleaner.

“It was nice to be out there again and hurdling with confidence and I am not in pain which is the best thing.

“It was good fun to be out there I feel like I am a caged tiger again … I certainly got inspiration from the 4 x400 boys. It was the only event that I actually stood up out of my chair and screamed at the TV.”

Moments after Pearson’s comfortable run, Rollins ran her first heat at a major championship and was far from overwhelmed by the experience running a sharp 12.55seconds – the quickest of any heat.

In June this year at the US trials Rollins ran a world-leading time of 12.26 seconds – the third fastest time ever – a time which put the world on notice that notwithstanding the fact Pearson was already recovering from two hamstring strains, the Australian would confront a different landscape this season.

Ordinarily Pearson runs hardest and fastest in each of her heats with other runners holding something back for the finals. Rollins evidently comes from Pearson’s school of thinking for she was clean and quick over the hurdles.

The first heat of the morning had established a sluggish pace with Canadian Angela Whyte winning in just 12.93s.

Briton Tiffany Porter won her heat in 12.72s with former Olympic champion and London silver medallist Dawn Harper running a surprisingly slow 12.84 to run third yet still advanced to the semis (the first four runners in each heat went through). Queenie Harrison won her heat in the unimpressive time of 12.95s.

On the field Australia’s Kathryn Mitchell threw 62.8m with her second throw to automatically qualify for the women’s javelin.

“A little bit of stress after the first throw, that was to bow out the cobwebs and nerves the first one, but I knew it was in there I just had to be patient and put it out there and it happened to come out and pass the auto qualifier and it did.’’

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