COOLING OFF: Campers enjoy time in one of the natural spas at Ladies Well. SPLASH DOWN: A young girl jumps off a rock into one of the waterholes at Ladies Well in the Chichester State Forest. PICTURES: DARREN PATEMAN
Nanjing Night Net

If you are interested in a bit of a getaway, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, to somewhere quiet and serene, I have just the place for you. Two hours from Newcastle lies a semi-discovered haven of fresh water and countryside.

NCH NEWS, Cooling off at LADIES WELL in the upper Allyn. Image shows campers cool off in one of the natural spas. 15th January 2008 pic Darren PatemanAllyn River – Barrington Tops – Hunter – NSW

NCH NEWS, Cooling off at LADIES WELL in the upper Allyn. Image shows a young girl junps off a rock in one of the waterholes. 15th January 2008 pic Darren PatemanAllyn River – Barrington Tops – Hunter – NSW

Groan, two hours? People were not designed to be cooped up in houses and offices day in day out, so an outdoors trip is a great diversion.

The drive is definitely worth it. It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.

So pack a picnic, fill the car with supplies, dust off your tent and force your friends to head out with you to Ladies Well in the Chichester State Forest.

After following tiny, windy roads for what will feel like hours, passing the notorious “Boot Hill” (I’m talking hundreds of thongs, boots, sandals, water shoes, joggers, pairs, singles, you name it, tied to a fence), completely covering your car in dust, freaking out over the fords and passing what seems like every cow in the Hunter, you will reach Ladies Well via Allyn River Road.

I’m not promising anything flash, just a camping ground, some bins and a drop toilet. Drop toilet, I hear you ask? Also popularly known as the pit, the long drop, bush toilet and so on. It’s a dry toilet. Which means it doesn’t flush. Which basically just means it’s a hole in the ground. But there is a seat!

What I can promise, however, is nothing you can take home, show your family or try and re-create in the city.

When you arrive you will instantly hear the gushing river only metres away, see the lush greenery surrounding you, smell the fresh water and feel the sun beaming down on you.

I have been going camping all my life and nothing, I mean nothing, has ever compared with Ladies Well.

The water is not for the faint hearted (literally, it is so cold you may be in fear of a heart attack) but the game, fearless and the stupid will have the time of their lives.

With numerous deep forming pools, the Allyn River is perfect for jumping into.

Doesn’t sound fun? Try jumping from two, four or six or so metres and plunging into the water below. You will feel more alive than you have in years when you re-emerge freezing and screaming. Forget about expensive creams and treatments, your skin will reap the rewards of the fresh running water.

People who are more on the insane side can try diving, front flips, back flips, side flips and double backside tipsy flippys.

You know the old rope swings that you see in movies but have never seen in real life? There’s one of those, too. Waterfalls and wells provide the perfect hangout for people who do actually fear death.

The most magical part comes at night. You can spark up a fire, pull out the marshmallows and make memories with your friends under the Milky Way that you will never forget.

If you are lucky you will get a visit from Miranda and Jerry. They’re our possum friends. You can feed them out of your hands.

Buck and Noo the kookaburras drop in from time to time and Gobbles the turkey’s main mission in life is to rustle around in the night and terrify you. The ultimate sight to see is William, the bilby. He’s very shy and only comes out when it’s dead quiet.

Tell me the two-hour drive isn’t worth it now.


The Grampians-Victoria Valley fire. Photo: Wayne Rigg, CFA Operations Officer. A water bomber fights the Epping grassfire. Photo: Jason South
Nanjing Night Net

The grassfire rages at Epping as a water bomber flies overhead. Photo: Joe Armao

A helicopter water bombs the grassfire. Photo: Jason South

A man and woman embrace as they meet on Craigieburn Road while waiting to get back to their homes, which had been blocked off by the grassfire. Photo: Jason South

The grassfire rages at Epping. Photo: Joe Armao

Firefighters battle the grassfire at Epping. Photo: Joe Armao

The Age reader Jacqui T snapped this photo in Lyndarum Drive, Epping about 4pm yesterday. Photo: Supplied

Smoke rises above houses as a reader drives down High Street in Epping about 4pm in this image supplied by The Age reader Tanya. Photo: Supplied

The Age reader Jacqui T took this image of the aftermath of the fire at Lyndarum at 7pm on Monday.

The Age reader Lennon Rowe sent us this image, writing: “Facing north, this photo was taken today [Monday] at 3.30pm on Scanlon Dr. Epping, which runs parallel to the Hume Fwy, perpendicular to Cooper St. We were evacuated by the CFA moments later, stating that the fire front was possibly only 15 minutes away.” Photo: Supplied

The Age reader Max Garner sent us this image of the Epping grassfire. Photo: Supplied

The Age reader Geoff England took this image from his home in Lyndarum Estate, Epping North yesterday afternoon. Photo: Supplied

The Age reader Iain Bargess-Peters sent us this image, taken near Houston Street, Epping. Photo: Supplied

The Age reader Bijal Palmer snapped this photo from his home at Lyndarum Estate. Photo: Supplied

The Grampians-Victoria Valley fire. Photo: Wayne Rigg, CFA Operations Officer.

The Grampians-Victoria Valley fire. Photo: Wayne Rigg, CFA Operations Officer.

The Grampians-Victoria Valley fire. Photo: Wayne Rigg, CFA Operations Officer.

The Grampians-Victoria Valley fire. Photo: Wayne Rigg, CFA Operations Officer.

The Grampians-Victoria Valley fire. Photo: Wayne Rigg, CFA Operations Officer.


The GPS knows. It’s got a whole section on fast-food outlets. This is, after all, the US.
Nanjing Night Net

I scroll through the list as California flashes past the car windows – the truck stops, the high-rises, the distant mountains, the endless black stretches of car-studded bitumen. The usual suspects are there in front of me, the McDonald’s and the KFC. But I’m after something different. The Holy Grail.

This will be stop No.4 on the great American fast-food tour, a tour born of hunger and one that’s quickly been gathering pace. Culture comes in many guises and the one I’ve been immersing myself in lately is the easy, greasy kind. Fast food.

The US is its spiritual home. You might think you know all the American fast-food chains, but when you come here you realise you don’t know the half of them. Like the radio station that’s playing country and western stars no one has heard of outside their homeland, there are plenty of American fast-food favourites that never made it big on the world stage.

And I’ve been trying them. It began in desperation, when only a burger would do, and there was only a weird joint named Carl’s Jr to visit. Soon after that it became a thing – how many unheard-of fast food joints could I try?

This isn’t Super Size Me. I don’t want to get fat and I don’t want to judge the people who are. All I want to do is have a taste of what’s on offer. Some would call it gluttony, but I call it culture.

The US is unfairly maligned for all sorts of reasons, and one of them is definitely the food. Sure, this might be the country that invented the concept of food challenges, of daring diners to eat mountainous burgers and several-kilo steaks. And no one else could have thought up the “turducken” – a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Necessarily.

Watch the signs for restaurants flashing past outside. Carl’s Jr. White Castle. Jack in the Box. Taco Bell. Arby’s. Wendy’s. What are these places? I want to find out.

First stop a few days ago was Carl’s Jr. I had a pressing need for grease brought on by the previous night’s pressing need for beer. I walked in expecting a whole new spin on the fast-food genre, a new range of oily, horrible things to explore. What I found were burgers.

You should see the drinks at Carl’s Jr – they’re huge. A regular Coke basically comes in a bucket. The burgers are standard fare, mine looking as though it was caught under someone’s shoe before it made it into the cardboard container. I don’t know who Carl is, but I do know he does a decent hangover cure.

A few days later, Jack in the Box came calling, because, well, it was there. Rather than the sort of surprise the name would suggest, Jack in the Box sells the same kind of stuff everyone else does. Same goes for Arby’s, which I called into as well. Colourful menus, big burgers. Americana.

Pretty soon the novelty of the great fast-food tour was wearing off. It was becoming apparent that, rather than providing a fascinating insight into a misunderstood genre of food and the wonderful American people who enjoy it, all the tour was providing was the chance for a few extra holes in my belt to get some use.

But today will be different. It’s the grand finale, and it’s the reason I’m scrolling through the car’s GPS menu as northern California bustles past outside. I want In-N-Out Burger.

Californians don’t just like In-N-Out, they love it. Hollywood celebrities love it. Grumpy chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain love it. It’s an institution and it demands a visit. No tour would be complete without it.

Ping! The GPS has found an In-N-Out just down the highway. I set my course and pull into the car park of a drab shopping centre right in the middle of Nowheresville, USA.

The burger joint is packed. It’s ’50s diner style, with red pleather booths and plastic tables. The menu is refreshingly simple – you don’t get happy meals here, or bunless mega-burgers, or faux deli-style snacks for those kidding themselves into “healthy choices”. At In-N-Out, you get the choice of hamburger, cheeseburger, or double cheeseburger. That’s it.

You get fries on the side. You get a soft drink in a laughably regular-sized cup. You get normally proportioned people dining there.

But the only thing that’s important is the taste, and an In-N-Out burger trumps them all. I’m sitting there in the leather booth scarfing down simple meat, onions, salad and a bun, and it’s all tasting so good.

I’ve saved the best for last. Now, I wonder if the GPS can find me a dietitian?

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What has been the best fast food you’ve discovered in your travels (in the US or elsewhere)? Post a comment below.

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


Airbus has dropped lithium-ion batteries of the type that forced the grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and will use traditional nickel-cadmium batteries in its crucially important next passenger jet, the A350.
Nanjing Night Net

The European planemaker said on Friday it had taken the decision to adopt the batteries used on existing models in order to prevent delays in the A350’s entry to service next year, amid uncertainty over the potential fallout of Boeing’s problems.

The move came a week after it was reported that Airbus was considering such a move to limit the risks surrounding the development of its own $US15 billion airliner.

“We want to mature the lithium-ion technology but we are making this decision today to protect the A350’s entry-into-service schedule,” an Airbus spokeswoman said.

Both groups insist the new battery technology is safe and Airbus took pains to avoid presenting its decision as a swipe against its US rival as they boast a common stand on safety.

But industry executives, insurance companies and safety officials have said questions are piling up over the “maturity” or predictability of lithium-ion technology, as US and Japanese investigators struggle to find the cause of incidents that led to the Boeing’s grounding crisis.

These included a fire on board a parked 787 in Boston and an in-flight problem on another plane in Japan.

The A350 is due to enter service in the second half of 2014 compared with an initial target of 2012 when it was launched as Europe’s answer to the lightweight 787 Dreamliner.

The industry’s fear is that the failure to identify the “root cause” of the burning battery incidents leaves too much uncertainty over whether regulators will certify planes, when they include the powerful but temperamental power packs.

Those anxieties went up another notch this week when the UN aviation agency banned the carriage of lithium-ion batteries as cargo in passenger jets.

Analysts say credibility is also at stake after severe delays on the A380 superjumbo and A400M military airlifter. Boeing’s 787 also began service in 2011 almost 4 years late.

“I think there is a real interest to try not to have more creeping delays,” Leeham Co analyst Scott Hamilton said.

Airbus will still use lithium-ion batteries for a maiden flight in mid-year and early flight trials but switch to traditional batteries in time for certification and delivery.

EARLY INDUSTRIAL USES

Uncertainty over whether Airbus can be sure of certifying the A350 with the new batteries illustrates the scale of the task Boeing faces in persuading regulators to let the 787 fly.

People familiar with the matter say it is ready to implement a fix involving a tough fireproof casing for the battery, but there have been no public signs that regulators would accept this without a deeper understanding of what caused the fire.

Shares in Airbus parent EADS ended flat, while shares in French battery maker Saft fell over 1.4 percent.

Saft developed the lithium-ion battery for the A350 but is also expected to supply the fallback solution as Airbus’s main supplier. A spokeswoman said Saft supported Airbus’s decision.

Lithium-ion batteries have been in consumer products such as phones and laptops for years but are relatively new to industrial applications such as back-up batteries for electrical systems in jets or energy storage on wind farms.

Their main advantage is that they are lighter and more powerful but they are sensitive to mishandling and can ignite.

Last March, Airbus itself warned that the risks associated with lithium-ion required “the attention of the entire industry,” according to a presentation reported by Reuters.

But in a second presentation coinciding with the opening of an A350 assembly plant in October 2012, Airbus said lithium-ion was a “less hazardous material compared to previous batteries”.

Cutting out weight and allowing airlines to burn less fuel has been the single-minded goal of aircraft designers for decades, but rarely more so than with the carbon-fibre A350 and 787 as competition for orders reaches fever pitch.

Switching to heavier nickel-cadmium will mean adding 80 kilogrammes of weight to the A350, which would normally have engineers fretting, but concerns over delays took precedence.

Surprisingly, industry sources say the nickel battery may be the same size or even smaller than the lithium one, once the latter’s unique electrical protections are stripped out. The actual nickel-cadmium cells are larger than lithium-ion ones.

Boeing’s options are seen as more limited because its 787 needs more power to support a greater array of electrical systems – originally one of its futuristic selling points.

Its rival’s decision leaves it as the only large commercial jetmaker relying on lithium-ion for main batteries. However, Boeing said it remained upbeat about its well-tested design.

“Boeing is confident in the safety and reliability of lithium-ion batteries,” a spokesman said by email. “There’s nothing we’ve learned in the investigations that would lead us to a different decision regarding lithium-ion batteries.”

Boeing is considering an interim plan to protect its 787 Dreamliner if its batteries overheat or catch fire, according to a report in the Seattle Times.

According to the daily, which covers a region including a major Boeing plant, Boeing may encase the battery cells in a titanium or steel box fitted with a high pressure vent to contain any fire that erupts in flight.

The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) refused to comment on the report, which the paper said came from people familiar with the plan. Boeing said the report was speculative and contained unspecified errors.

According to the reports, Boeing hopes its interim plan to shield the plane from battery fires will convince US safety authorities to allow the 50 jets grounded around the world to return to service by May at the earliest.

Reuters/AFP

Airbus has dropped lithium-ion batteries of the type that forced the grounding of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner and will use traditional nickel-cadmium batteries in its crucially important next passenger jet, the A350.

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


Boy meets girl … are the ‘rules’ redundant?It sounds like a children’s toy, or perhaps an adult toy – possibly a new and improved version of the famed ‘rabbit’ vibrator. But Happy Rabbit is actually an app developed by a leading dating website, designed to help busy singles manage their dates.
Nanjing Night Net

The increasing popularity of online dating means that many of us are seeing more people at the one time than ever before. Happy Rabbit, to an extent, makes sense – in the same way that there are apps to help monitor your exercise and eating habits, Happy Rabbit is here to help you keep your dating behaviours in check.

“When you are newly seeing someone, generally they are on your mind a lot so it’s natural to want to contact them frequently,” said a spokesperson for the dating site. “This app will help people ensure they are contacting their dates at the right frequency,” she added.

The “right frequency.” Right.

We might have thought we were done with The Rules, the famous book written by Ellen Fein and Sherrie Schneider nearly 20 years ago, in which the women espoused such pearls of wisdom as: always wear lipstick whe2n going for a run, as you never know who you’re going to bump into; and never say yes to a Saturday night date when he asks any later than a Wednesday.

A new, updated edition was released a month ago to address the relatively recent phenomena of social media and online dating – but a lot of the old-fashioned ‘rules’ printed in the original remain largely unchanged.

Having recently re-entered the dating pool myself, I found myself feeling a little unsure of how to play the game. How long to wait before replying to a text message? Am I always supposed to wait for him to text me first? Am I allowed to ask him out, or do I have to wait to be asked? Is there any merit to these stupid rules anyway?

When I received an email about the Happy Rabbit app, I decided that for 99c, it couldn’t hurt to consult the bunny.

Upon signing up, users must agree to an honesty pledge.

“I will add everyone that I am dating

I will record all contact with my dates

I will provide honest ratings

I will correctly record who initiated contact

I will have fun dating

I will try to avoid boiling the bunny!”

The app is clearly targeted at women – I don’t know too many men who analyse their relationships to the extent that girls do, at least not publicly – but the jokey reference to boiling the bunny annoyed me a bit. It insinuates that a woman who is overly forward or enthusiastic is somewhat needy, or possibly unhinged. But when a guy shows a ton of interest in a woman, he’s simply keen.

Pressing forward, I moved on to the next stage of the app, where you add your dates and record your ‘nibbles’ – who initiated the contact, was it a text or email, social media, call or date, has he or she responded, and was the conversation or interaction flirty, normal or cold. Upon completion of your date – if you go on one – you’re prompted to complete a Bunny Survey quizzing you on how things went. If things go well, you’re rewarded with items to fill your “bunny hot tub”, like a rubber ducky, for instance. The objective is to keep the bunny hot tub warm, but not boiling – you don’t want to get all Glenn Close on him. Conversely, if the temperature goes cold, you’re encouraged to seek advice from the dating site that created the app, or to pull the plug on this particular date.

Unsurprisingly, the app comes with a disclaimer from the creators: Happy Rabbit is a fun-based app providing users with general guidance of a light-hearted nature. This app does not provide professional or any other type of advice. Before acting on the guidance, consider the appropriateness for your personal circumstance… etc.

A cursory glance revealed that the Happy Rabbit wouldn’t prove particularly helpful in resolving my dating dilemmas. The aforementioned email suggests that recording contact with the Happy Rabbit could help avoid the dreaded drunk dial, as you’d have evidence of who’d been doing most of the contacting and whether or not it was your ‘turn’ to give him a nudge. But arguably after a few too many, you’re either unable to see the rabbit properly, or could care less about the opinion of a cartoon animal.

Quizzing my male friends on the subject proved only marginally more helpful than a bunny hot tub.

I’d recently met a guy and was still in that exciting-but-awful phase where you’re checking your phone a million times a day and are still sussing each other out. I gave three mates the backstory (too long to go into here) and asked their advice – can I call him?

No way, said one. Wait for him to call you.  If he doesn’t, he’s just not that into you.Definitely call him, said another – what have you got to lose?Ross, the rules are that there are no rules, said a third. Everyone’s different and should be treated accordingly.

I’ve never been one for games but can’t help but think that sometimes you have to play along a little bit, no matter how outdated or politically incorrect it might seem.

What do you think – are the ‘rules’ there for a reason, or is it time to throw out the book once and for all?

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