Dots and details make big impression

INSPIRING ART: Kieren Waters from Walhallow Primary school poses with his prize-winning piece. Photo: Gareth Gardner 251114GGA02IT WAS an eye for detail and pride in his Aboriginal heritage that earned Walhallow student Kieren Waters a top prize in an Australia-wide art competition this month.
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The 11-year-old from Walhallow Public School was recognised for his workAboriginal Animals, a traditional painting using dot art and warm, earthy tones.

He was presented with the Australian Scholarships Group (ASG) Indigenous Art Award – one of five categories in the Young Australian Art and Writers’ Awards – at a ceremony in Melbourne, where he travelled with his parents and school principal on Saturday.

Keiren admits to being a cheeky, creative spark, and he loves his heritage, which shines through in his homage to indigenous art.

“I have liked drawing all my life. I like to draw in lead pencil mostly and I like dot painting.”

Keiren’s teacher and school principal Leanne Batho says she was thrilled with Keiren’s success.

“He loves to draw and he is painstakingly detailed with his art work,” Ms Batho said.

“Sometimes Keiren doesn’t finish his work because he works so carefully and slowly.”

ASG chief executive John Velegrinis said he was inspired by Kieren’s originality and pride in respecting his Aboriginal culture.

“Kieren comes from Walhallow Public School, which is one of only three schools in NSW to hold a 100 percent indigenous student population,” Mr Velegrinis said. “It is wonderful to see the success of these students like Keiren, knowing we’re supporting their education outside of traditional learning environments and encouraging them to explore their talents and perhaps steer them on their future career paths,” Mr Velegrinis said.

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New Year’s Eve Sydney: Uber under fire for inflated ‘dynamic pricing’ fares

Price hikes: New Year’s Eve Uber users may be in for a shock. Price hikes: New Year’s Eve Uber users may be in for a shock.
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Price hikes: New Year’s Eve Uber users may be in for a shock.

Price hikes: New Year’s Eve Uber users may be in for a shock.

Taxi surge tipped for New Year’s Eve in MelbourneUber’s offices raided as Uber X launchedFare freeze propose to help taxis competeOutrage over $100 Uber fares amid Sydney siege

Thousands of Uber drivers will be offering rides at inflated prices on New Year’s Eve, despite government crackdowns on illegal ride-sharing and criticism from consumer groups.

“We are anticipating high demand during peak periods on New Year’s Eve and … dynamic pricing [will be] in effect,” a spokeswoman for Uber said.

Uber is an app-based service that connects users with the closest accredited and unaccredited drivers who can offer rides in taxis or personal cars if both parties agree to a price estimate provided by the application. Dynamic pricing refers to the company’s practice of “algorithmically” increasing prices during times of high demand “to encourage more drivers to come onto the platform”.

Uber has declined to provide an estimate of how much rates could increase on December 31, meaning users could be in for “bill shock”, Tom Godfrey, a spokesman for consumer advocacy group Choice, has warned.

Uber’s holiday and special-event fares are only available at the time of booking, but non-holiday rates for the ride-sharing service UberX are about $1.45 per kilometre or 40 cents per minute, plus a base fare of $2.50.

However, the service recently came under fire for charging more than four times the usual rate to passengers during the Martin Place siege under its dynamic pricing model, with users reporting minimum fare rates of $100 to leave the Sydney CBD.

“The last thing you want to do is be slugged by a big bill on New Year’s Eve,” said Mr Godfrey.

“We saw with the Sydney siege that people need to be aware of how [the Uber] business model works.

“Taxis may have a holiday fee, but it’s still definitely cheaper.”

Standard taxi rates between 10pm and 6am on nights before public holidays are $2.63 per kilometre or 94.4 cents per minute, plus booking-related fees of about $6. Public holidays rates are between $2.26 and $3.75 per kilometre.

Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian encouraged people to use the “thousands of extra” train, bus and taxi services instead of illegal Uber services.

“Here in NSW we have been very clear that it is illegal for drivers to participate in what we call ‘ride-sharing’ activities like UberX,” Ms Berejiklian said.

Only accredited drivers in licensed vehicles are allowed to provide transport services.

A spokesman for Roads and Maritime Services said: “Several fines of thousands of dollars have already been issued for those breaking the law and enforcement operations and prosecutions are progressing.”

The government raided Uber’s Sydney offices earlier this year and has issued 10 court attendance notices to UberX drivers.

However, Uber continues to be popular with users, with an estimated 11 per cent of Sydney’s population having used ride-sharing services since April.

This will be the third time Uber services have been available on New Year’s Eve since the company launched in Sydney in 2012.

“Previous New Year’s Eves have shown us that…prices remained normal until about 8pm,” said the spokeswoman for Uber.

“From 8pm until 10.30am, we saw an increase that might be similar to a usual busy Friday or Saturday night.

“We experienced extremely high demand, and subsequent increased fares to encourage additional supply, from midnight to 3am.”

While there is no specific pricing policy for Uber in NSW, a cap of 2.5 times the usual price for all Uber services during emergencies was announced by the New York attorney general earlier this year, with a nationwide price cap in the United States expected to follow.

“This is a complex issue and cities all around the world are grappling with it as we speak,” said Ms Berejiklian.

Aneurin Coffey, producer of Sydney New Year’s Eve, was unable to comment on Uber specifically, but recommended public transport as the best option for getting home.

“There will be extra taxis, but I would say trains will be a little bit more efficient,” Mr Coffey said. “[Other queues] just move a little slower than public transport queues.”

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Australia play it safe, Test ends in a draw

As it happened: Third Test, day fiveBaum: Limp declaration and what may have beenTonk: Pietersen goes in to bat for Shane WatsonKnox: Declaration raises questions about nature of the gameIndian captain Dhoni retires from Test cricket
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Australia was worried into a cautious declaration because of India’s batting firepower and a flat MCG pitch, with captain Steve Smith admitting that snuffing out all hope for the tourists was more important than winning the Boxing Day Test.

The first draw in a Melbourne Test since 1997 delivered the Border-Gavaskar Trophy back into Australian possession but there were muted celebrations at the MCG when Smith and MS Dhoni agreed to call off the match with four overs left and India six wickets down.

Smith felt there was no prospect of a result at this point, and defended the decision to bat on until lunch by saying that he wanted to remove all possibility of an Indian win, which would have kept the series alive.

The declaration left Australia’s bowlers 70 overs to take ten wickets and set India 384 to win, well beyond the highest successful runchase in MCG history.

“I don’t think there was a win still there to be honest, all our bowlers were pretty cooked and it was time to finish, there wasn’t much breaking up in the wicket, there wasn’t much going on. I think that was it,” Smith said of the early finish.

He admitted the country’s attacking mantra was secondary to the desire to win back the trophy, which was lost during the hellish tour of India in 2013. He also suggested India’s defensive tactics when Shaun Marsh and Ryan Harris were batting on Tuesday morning influenced the decision.

“We do say we always play to win but it was one of those circumstances. India had an opportunity to take the new ball  and they didn’t do that,” Smith said. “We thought, you know what? We will give you a few less overs to get these runs. I thought they might have come out a bit harder and gone after us at the start and we might have got a few wickets there and we have got through their tail pretty quickly recently but it didn’t turn out that way. We still got a series win which was important to us.”

Marsh was run out on 99 after he was told a declaration was imminent. Smith was conscious of India’s bold bid to win the first Test in Adelaide, when the tourists fell 48 runs short.

“Yeah a little bit, and I think the wicket out here was much better than Adelaide. At least Adelaide broke up and spun a lot for Nathan, which created opportunities there. We certainly didn’t have that out here. It was a very good wicket to bat on and we didn’t want to give them an opportunity.”

Dhoni said the declaration was Australia’s territory but that he was ready to play out the day. “I was ready to play. I’d played 14, 15 overs, another four overs, maybe they were too tired to bowl four overs. That’s a very Aussie answer I’ve given,” he said.

“I changed my mind a couple of times, I wasn’t quite sure when to pull out, but as I said, I didn’t really want to give India a crack with the batters they had in the shed and how good that wicket was.”

India stumbled to 3-19 in the 9th over, but Virat Kohli again led the resistance with 54 to add to his brilliant 169 in the first innings.

Ryan Harris was named man of the match for his 74 in the first innings and six wickets for the Test.

The Australians, who will take a two-nil lead to the SCG, had their chances. They dropped three catches during India’s first innings and on Tuesday the dangerous Ajinkya Rahane was dropped on 22 and Ravi Ashwin on 1. Kohli was almost run out for four, prompting another verbal stoush with Brad Haddin.

“I reckon a win went begging when we dropped a couple of catches a few days ago,” Smith said. “Our fielding was below par for us in this Test match which was disappointing, we certainly let a few opportunities slip which never helps.”

Harris also defended the late declaration.

“We wanted to win the series, that was the thing when we started out the day. The question is going to be, did we bat too long? No we didn’t. We wanted to win the series and we didn’t want to give India a sniff. They only had to draw the series to retain the trophy, we have to win it and we’ve won it now,” he said.

“We always play to win but they chase big totals which we saw in Adelaide. A draw is a draw, but we win the series.”

Injured skipper Michael Clarke, who famously declared behind to conjure a victory against the West Indies in Barbados in 2012, discussed Smith’s options on Channel Nine before play.

“I would like to think Steve is certainly still thinking about winning the game,” Clarke said.

“Obviously Australia is up in the series but I think our attitude in my whole career has always been about how we can win the Test match so I’d like to think the boys are up there talking about that. Then I think Steve will work out what he feels is the right amount of time to bowl India out.”

Former Australian captain Mark Taylor said Smith would be wary of letting India back into the series.

“He’s way in front in the game and two-nil up in the series, so he doesn’t want to throw away a game with one [Test] to come but he will be thinking about winning for sure,” Taylor said. “He gets himself into a a position where they are way in front and say, you come and get them… If you want to keep this series alive, you chase them.”

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Limp declaration and what might have been is revealed

As it happened: Third Test, day fiveTonk: Pietersen goes in to bat for Shane WatsonKnox: Declaration raises questions about nature of the gameIndian captain Dhoni retires from Test cricket
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Here is what didn’t happen at the MCG on Tuesday. Shaun Marsh didn’t make a century, falling half a length short. Australia didn’t declare until lunch. Australia didn’t take three good chances, a catch and two run-outs, any of which might have delivered the fatal blow to India. Their mantra for the day was “10 opportunities”. As it transpired, they made 10, but took only six.

Nathan Lyon, seven-wicket fifth-day hero in Adelaide, didn’t take a wicket, which was above all a reflection of a pitch inadvertently too well preserved by untimely rain breaks.

In Adelaide, Lyon bowled 34 overs, here merely 12. The best finger spinner of the day was delivered by Mitch Johnson, a change-up ball to bowl the hapless Cheteshwar Pujara. It was insult added to injury: the previous two balls had been bouncers, one hitting Pujara in the helmet.

India’s tail didn’t collapse, for once, though the change room must have been a tremulous place when the sixth wicket fell with 15 overs still to bowl.

Australia didn’t button their mouths, choosing instead to engage Virat Kohli at every turn, though the evidence of his and other series is that Kohli revels in it. In Brisbane, India made the mistake of inciting Mitch Johnson. Here, Australia fell into the same trap of tripping traps. It is not enough for both sides to hide behind their platitudinous formulations about hard and fair. This series is again being in conspicuously nasty humour, doing neither team any credit. Galvanised, Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane shared another long partnership to put the Test just beyond Australia’s fingertips.

Australia didn’t win. And India didn’t lose.

Cricket is a game in which what doesn’t happen often matters as much as what does. In the morning, Australia batted on and on at the meditative rate of 2.5 runs an over, until even the crowd was hollering for a declaration. When at last one was called, India’s target was 384 from 70 overs.

By contemporary world standards, it was a timid declaration, nearly un-Australian. It dated from a time when it was acceptable to settle for a draw, if that would make your position in the series impregnable. Presumably, it was predicated on the heft of India’s batting. Although the focus has been on their spectacular late order implosions, the fact is that in three Tests in this series, they have made only 128 runs less than England made in five last summer.

Weighing also in Australia’s deliberations would have been the belief that India would be compelled to chase even an improbable total or surrender the series, and that their desperation might play into Australia’s hands. You might even have called it a passive aggressive declaration. But the timing bore the hallmarks of a decision made by a committee rather than the captain. It was notable that when at last they were agreed, it was coach Darren Lehmann who called the halt.

The collateral victim was Marsh, who was unflappable for 4 hours, but suddenly had felt strangled by the field and the circumstances, and tried to take a tippety 100th run, and failed.

But Australia’s hunch was well-founded. With a reshuffled order, India began with bold intentions, but three wickets in the first six overs changed the complexion of the contest. It became an all-day siege.

Wickets fell inopportunely for India, but for once never in a rush after that early list. Kohli did as he has all series, snarled like a brigand and batted like a dream. Nothing took him by surprise, not pace, not bounce, not spin, not Australia’s many epithets, nothing other than the two moments when partners baulked at runs. He is in such form that his few false shots are now recognisable milestones in the series. When he played one to the first ball after tea, turning Ryan Harris directly to square leg, no one was more shocked than him.

But the impressive Rahane coolly took up Kohli’s commission, standing on the bridge for 3 hours, until shovelling a pull from Josh Hazlewood to square leg. It was long enough – just. For Australia’s bowlers, it just didn’t happen. M.S. Dhoni and Ravi Ashwin, each holding up an end for the other, survived without significant scare until the end, another non-happening. With four overs still to bowl, a truce was called, inexplicably.

India escaped with a draw, and Australia had to settle for one. For India, it was both a form of defeat, since it meant forfeiture of the Border-Gavaskar trophy, and a form of victory, halting a five-match losing streak. For Australia, it broke a 10-match winning run at home. It was not that the end failed to justify the means this day, just that in the end, there was no end.

A draw: cricket’s unique perversity, a result that didn’t happen, and yet did.

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

Burnie RSL club in battle for survival

THE Burnie RSL has closed for now and its president says it must evolve to survive.
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NOT VIABLE AS IS: The Burnie RSL, which has closed its doors due to declining patronage. Picture: Stuart Wilson.

That is likely to lead to new operating hours and other changes.

President Michael Davis was yesterday adamant the club would re-open, but said it would not operate as it had in the past.

He also spoke of a need to revamp the current premises.

The club is closed until further notice.

Mr Davis said a community meeting would be called in due course and suggested the club needed to reach out to younger veterans and the wider community.

“The community is part of the RSL and people are welcome any time,” he said.

It is understood the club hit money problems due to falling patronage.

Mr Davis said it had operated with dwindling patronage for many months.

The club held a forum in November and an emergency meeting in July, he said.

“The RSL is run by a committee of volunteers with relevant skillsets in different areas to make it an ongoing entity,” he said.

“Unfortunately, we’ve been lacking in somebody with skills in the financial side.”

He said the club needed to preserve its traditions and functions, but could not preserve the Alexander Street venue as it was.

He said he would be devastated to have to move away from a venue built up by members, but “it’s going to take a lot to bring it up to date”.

“We’ve come to a realisation because of dwindling numbers through the door for day-to-day trading, we cannot remain open as a viable entity in the current form.”

He said it was an opportunity to revitalise and re-energise the sub-branch.

He said the RSL in Burnie was not seen as a place to go for a night’s entertainment, as mainland RSLs often were.

“We’re not here to compete with pubs and clubs; we’re in the game of providing entertainment for members, their guests and the wider community.”

He said the sub-branch was in close contact with the state branch about the issues.

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

Indian captain MS Dhoni retires from Test cricket

As it happened: Third Test, day fiveBaum: Limp declaration and what may have beenTonk: Pietersen goes in to bat for Shane WatsonKnox: Declaration raises questions about nature of the game
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A maverick to the last, Indian captain M.S. Dhoni suddenly announced his retirement from Test cricket after the third Test ended in a draw at the MCG on Tuesday. Dhoni flagged no such intention at the formal post-match media conference, instead pulling stumps on Twitter half an hour later.

Virat Kohli, who captained India in the first Test of the series in Adelaide earlier this month, will resume the post in the fourth Test in Sydney next week.

Dhoni, 33, skippered India in 60 of his 90 Test matches. Under him, India ascended to No 1 in the world two years ago. He also led India to victory in the 2011 World Cup on home soil.

For these feats, his legendhood is assured in India, also his fortune; reputedly, he is the world’s richest cricketer. The blemish on his record is a familiar one for Indian captains: his teams have been titans at home, terrible away.

Personally, Dhoni made 4876 Test runs at 38, including six centuries, took 256 catches and made 38 stumpings. In his last innings, he remained 24 not out, shepherding India to a draw. He was acclaimed as firmly in control of an Indian team full of big names and personalities.

But Dhoni is as much known for his exploits in 50- and 20-over cricket, including as a pioneer of the Indian Premier League. He will continue to play in these formats, and is expected to lead in India in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand early next year.

Evidently, Indian authorities were as much taken by surprise as everyone else.

“One of India’s greatest Test captains, under whose leadership India became the No. 1 team in the Test rankings, MS Dhoni, has decided to retire from Test cricket, citing the strain of playing all formats of cricket,” read a hasty release from BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel.

“MS Dhoni has chosen to retire from Test cricket with immediate effect in order to concentrate on ODI and T 20 formats. BCCI, while respecting the decision of MS Dhoni to retire from Test cricket, wishes to thank him for his enormous contribution to Test cricket and the laurels that he has brought to India.”

Dhoni was to the last a mysterious figure. He arrived late for this tour, nursing a hamstring strain and amid speculation that he was preserving himself for the World Cup. He missed the first Test, but played the last two. His keeping has been as solid as ever, but he was a lesser batsman. Nonetheless, India is bound to miss him.

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Third Test declaration raises questions about very nature of the game

As it happened: Third Test, day fiveBaum: Limp declaration and what may have beenTonk: Pietersen goes in to bat for Shane WatsonIndian captain Dhoni retires from Test cricket
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A hundred and ten years ago, the Victorian Test all-rounder Frank Laver asked if audiences would bother watching cricket games that ran for five days and finished without a winner. “It must be acknowledged that the length of time cricket takes in this age of progress and bustle is far too great,” wrote Laver, who was also the manager of Australia’s 1905 Ashes tour. “Football, baseball, lacrosse and nearly all national games are decided on two or three hours’ play. These games have a great advantage over cricket for that very reason. Life is too short for long contests.”

Life is thought to be even shorter now, notwithstanding the evidence. But Test cricket’s popularity – nearly 200,000 came to this Boxing Day match, the most ever to an Australia-India contest in this country – suggests that 110 years of progress, while providing ample alternatives to the five-day match, has still not cured the demand (or is it tolerance?) for something long, slow and inconclusive.

Five days of first-rate cricket were perhaps marred, in the end, by the unfulfilled promise that more aggressive leadership from Australia could have produced a winner. Yet the question of whether Steve Smith’s declaration was too late or not (assuming it was Smith’s, and not Darren Lehmann’s, Michael Clarke’s or Joe the cameraman’s – they were all lurking nearby) was  answered only near the end of play.

Until  late in the afternoon, Smith’s decision to give his bowlers 70 overs at India could still have been a stroke of genius redolent of Clive Lloyd’s merciless forays in the 1980s, forcing the side batting last to abandon all hope and capitalising on their flattened spirits. That was one theory, anyway. Another was that Smith delayed his closure to reward Shaun Marsh’s 4-hour vigil with a century. If that was Smith’s intent, it would have been strangely subcontinental in flavour, placing the individual batting achievement on a pedestal above the match result. In any case, Marsh spurned the gift: having batted stoically, patiently and even boringly over two days, Marsh contrived to get himself out in an unseemly rush.

Smith’s declaration also posed the question of for whom Test cricket is played. If for us – the public who want a good show, who turn up or tune in for entertainment, who come and go and have no skin in the game – then the declaration, and the slow batting that preceded it, must be reckoned a failure. India survived their 70 overs without remotely threatening the target, 200runs were wasted, and Australia denied themselves the chance of bowling with a second new ball. What kind of a show is that?

But if it’s not about us, it’s about them – those who play – then the declaration had a separate logic. For the Australian team, the declaration was timed to never give a sucker an even break and to rub the Indians’ noses in the futility oftheir task. There is so much competitive friction between the teams, and such a strong memory in the Australian camp of the humiliations they suffered in India 20months ago, that the declaration might have been signalled not with a beckoning wave to the Australian batsmen but a two-fingered salute to the Indian fielders.

Winning the series was Australia’s objective, and they achieved this while Marsh and Ryan Harris whiled away the first session. For many spectators – “Here we are now, entertain us” – the frustrating close of play left an empty feeling and opened Smith to a first taste of criticism in his career as Test captain. Sections of the Melbourne crowd heckled the players as they left the field. But for the Australian team, this was the day they reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, a success  limited only by the absence of the added bonus.

In any case, the afternoon did provide plenty of excitement. Hearts quickened when Mitchell Johnson, Harris and Josh Hazlewood took three wickets in the first nine overs of India’s innings. That was akin to giving Smith back an hour he had surrendered. Virat Kohli and Ajinkya Rahane steadied India until tea, but the first ball of the last session, which Kohli chipped meekly to square leg, initiated a period in which great things were always on the cusp of happening.

India’s lower order has had all the resilience of a pane of glass, and each wicket seemed ready to shatter it. Johnson’s fast finger-spinner to dismiss Cheteshwar Pujara with more than an hour to play again made the collapse seem imminent (as well as begging the question why neither side’s specialist spinner bowled a single ball from the Members’ end in five days).

In the end, it was a case of suspense without release. Smith placed his fieldsmen with great care, but at the end of a long match they looked a lot like people playing beach cricket, five men standing on the leg side in what appeared to be random spots where they had stopped walking. It would not have been surprising to see each fielder with a bottle of beer in his spare hand.

Soon after, that was what they had anyway. That most anomalous of events, in this age of golden points, tie-breakers and sudden death play-offs,  had come about. The last draw Australia  played in (excluding matches ruined by rain) was in Adelaide against South Africa two summers ago, and that, too, was a classic. Life may well be too short for long discussions without a definitive answer. But then again, it may not.

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

Many interesting moments as we look back on 2014 EDITORIAL

For those of you who took the time to take a look at our 2014 In Review ­feature this week you’ll have noticed it certainly was an interesting year in Maitland.
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January was tinged with sadness, however, when we were told that 21-year-old Bolwarra Heights man Jonathon (Pip) Manley was missing. His body was later discovered, after an extensive police search, on the side of the road at Lorn.

On Australia Day it was time to celebrate when our Paralympic and world swimming champion Maddi Elliott was named in the Australia Day honours lists with an Order of Australia Medal.

Earlier this year we also learnt that Maitland City Council was finalising construction details to revitalise the ageing Heritage Mall and replace it with The Levee precinct, which would see one-way traffic return to the city centre.

Shoppers received some exciting news in May when plans for the long-awaited expansion of Stockland Green Hills included a Myer store.

Maitland’s rail commuters joined with their counterparts from across the Hunter in December to protest the state government’s plan to truncate the Newcastle rail line at Wickham on Boxing Day.

Save Our Rail’s 11th-hour bidin the Supreme Court managed to ­prevent the removal of the rail lines, but work still went ahead in removing ­electrical infrastructure.

Yes, 2014 certainly was an exciting year.

The management and staff of the Maitland Mercury wish to thank loyal readers and advertisers for their support throughout the year.

We hope you have a safe new year and that 2015 brings with it good health and happiness to you and your loved ones.

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