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Month: January 2019

My kind of market

My kind of market

Animated … a chicken at a Vietnamnese market.”What are we getting for lunch?” I yelled in Khien’s ear as we roared through Dong Mang, a small Vietnamese town on the road to Da Lat.
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“Chicken,” he yelled back from the front of the motorbike, dodging a car and narrowly missing a stray dog. “We will cook it later.”

OK, I thought. Chicken. Of all the things I’ve eaten in Vietnam, that will be up there with the least adventurous. It’s no snake or fried insect, but it sounds good.

So the two of us motored through town towards the central market, dodging the usual honking melange of scooters and trucks and pedestrians and livestock that litters a typical Vietnamese road.

The market was the sort you would find in almost every town in the country, with tarpaulin sheets rigged over a concrete floor, large stacks of fresh fruits and vegetables and herbs laid out on wooden benches. Khien wasn’t mucking around, heading straight towards the back to find his chicken lady. I just tried to keep up.

Now, if this were a normal market, I’d have been stupendously bored already. When I picture markets, I think of the arts-and-crafty ones, the type some people could wander around for hours without the slightest intention of buying things, just handling all the goods and saying things such as, “That’s quite nice. That’d look good in the lounge room.”

I hate those markets. All the goods either look exactly the same as each other to me, or they’re nothing I would ever want to buy anyway. And if you’re not going to buy anything, what are you doing there?

Food markets, however, are different, particularly food markets in foreign countries. They’re fascinating – a window into the culture. I could conceivably buy everything that’s on display and, even if I don’t, the act of looking is experience enough.

Whether it’s cheese stalls in Paris, mystery meat on a stick in Tanzania, fresh vegies in Bologna or weird nutty things in Moscow, I’m interested.

You see some fantastically strange things in food markets. There’s a stall in Phonsavan, Laos, that sells bats. Not single bats, mind you, but bats tied together in little bundles of three. Because, really, why would you want only one or two bats?

Go to Tsukiji fish markets in Tokyo and you’ll find seafood you didn’t know existed, the sort of strange things that should be wobbling through horror-movie sets, not presenting themselves on your dinner plate.

I find it all amazing, so I could have happily followed Khien around that market in Dong Mang for hours, prodding vegetables and tasting fruits.

Old women grinned toothless grins at us as we wandered by, imploring the Western guy to buy large bagfuls of whatever it was they had for sale.

But Khien had come for chicken and it was a chicken we would have. The two of us made our way towards a small stand at the back of the market, me marvelling at everything around, before we arrived at our destination and the realisation finally dawned.

We weren’t here to buy chicken – we were here to buy a chicken. And when you buy a chicken at a Vietnamese food market, it tends to look a little more animated than the ones in the frozen section at Coles.

These chickens were proper chickens. Clucking, pecking chickens. Living chickens. “Which one do you like?” Khien asked, pointing at the 10 chooks nervously pacing around the little enclosure.

I wasn’t totally comfortable with this state of affairs but what can you do? I didn’t want Khien to think I was, well, chicken, so I surveyed the pen of potential lunch. Having never chosen my meat with such freshness, I wasn’t sure what to look for. They all looked scrawny and feathery to me.

“What about that scrawny, feathery one?” I said to Khien.

“OK,” he nodded. “We get that one.”

It’s good to witness this sort of thing, I guess.

If you’re a meat-eater, if you’re comfortable with your choice to dine on animals, then you should be able to watch how your food really makes it to your plate. It snaps you back to cold reality.

But that didn’t make it fun, standing there while the lady did what needed to be done to our scrawny little chook, working so swiftly that within a few minutes she presented Khien and I with a simple plucked carcass, the sort you’d find in the frozen section at Coles.

Lunch. Into a plastic bag, into Khien’s backpack and then off on the motorbike to a clearing in a forest where we’d be able to start a fire and cook our prize. Organic and fresh. Free range, I assume.

But, sadly, also a little chewy.

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Have you had any interesting experiences at markets while travelling? Eaten or bought weird and wonderful foods? Post a comment below.

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

Is your accountant worth keeping?

Is your accountant worth keeping?

It’s a good time to review how your business is performing, including your accountant.The new financial year gives business owners a chance to review how their business has performed. It’s also the perfect time to plan ahead for the coming year and look for ways to improve your business. But many owners forget to include their choice of accountant in this equation.
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If an owner wants to maximise their profit potential, while at the same time minimising taxes payable, they need to assess whether they have a tax agent or an accountant. A tax agent, despite what they call themselves, only ever looks backward, concentrates on tax returns and financial statements, and never makes suggestions on how to improve the business or the owner’s tax situation.

Q. I am in the process of changing accountants. So far it has taken four weeks and I have urgent taxation commitments to sort out. Is there a legal process I can follow to get reimbursement for overcharging? The old accountant has charged $53,500 for the 2011-12 financial year, which is not in accordance with the signed letter of engagement.

My old accountant did not lodge our March BAS when he was supposed to and it is now seriously overdue, and he will not sign the ethical letter sent by our new accountant. Does this preclude him from registering as our accountant with the ATO? The old accountant said he would not sign the ethical letter because there were more invoices to come and he will get around to that when he can.

A. As your new accountant has sent the ethical letter, and the old accountant is refusing to return it, there is nothing stopping him registering with the ATO as your tax agent and sorting out your urgent tax matters.

A good accountant should be able to take the last set of financial statements and tax returns prepared for your business and, combined with the information obtainable from the ATO, quickly sort out your lodgement commitments with the ATO.

I don’t know of any legal steps you can take to recover amounts that have been overcharged to you. From what you have described it sounds as if your old accountant has not acted in a professional manner. One of your best options will be to report your old accountant to the professional body he belongs to.

If you receive another bill from the old accountant you can request that he justify what is being charged. He should be able to provide you with time records that prove how much work has been done and what hourly rate the services are charged at.

In addition to him failing to lodge your March BAS on time it also appears he has not properly discharged his tax agent duties. This will mean your old accountant is in breach of several of the codes of conduct laid down by the Tax Practitioners Board. You should therefore also report his behaviour so appropriate disciplinary action can be taken by the board.

Questions on business tax and other matters can be emailed to [email protected]南京夜网.au.

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

Sharp rise in sea levels to Australia’s north: report

Sharp rise in sea levels to Australia’s north: report

Leading Australian scientists have firmed their view on the rate of sea-level rise, in the latest snapshot of this climate change problem.
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Over the past 50 years, the global average rise of 1.9 millimetres a year measured in tide gauges has been confirmed in satellite measurements, raising confidence in predictions.

“We are very close to the final answer on this,” said oceanographer John Hunter, of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre in Hobart. “Once we do that we can do our modelling for the future much better.”

In the ACECRC’s Report Card: Sea Level Rise 2012 released today, a dramatic short-term rise was identified north of Australia, where waters rose at around 10mm each year over the past 18 years.

But Dr Hunter cautioned that this was likely to relate to El Nino events, rather than long term sea-level trends.

He said the Australian coasts faced a rise of about the global average rate through the 21st century – meaning sea level would be around 0.38 metres higher in 2090 than it was 100 years earlier.

Thermal expansion – the greater space occupied by hotter sea water – has contributed about 45 per cent of the total rise since 1972, according to the report card.

Melting glaciers and ice caps added another 40 per cent, with most of the remainder coming from ice sheets.

The report card warns that as a rule of thumb, a 0.1m rise in sea level increased the frequency of flooding by about a factor of three.

“This effect is multiplicative so that even a relatively modest increase in mean sea level of 0.5 m will increase the frequency of flooding by a factor of roughly 300,” it said.

“This means that an event which presently only happens on average once every 100 years (the ‘100-year return event’) will happen several times a year after sea level has risen by 0.5 m.”

Dr Hunter said with new data submissions to the International Panel on Climate Change set to close within weeks, the report card represented the state of play on sea level rise as it was likely to be in the IPCC’s 2014 report.

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

Housing outlook: the bad and the ugly

Housing outlook: the bad and the ugly

The outlook for Sydney’s housing is less clouded than for Melbourne.Anyone who has followed my blog on MacroBusiness will be aware that this columnist holds a bearish view on the Australian housing market overall.
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This view is based primarily on the fact that Australian home prices experienced a decade of strong growth that was not matched by the growth in underlying fundamentals: incomes, rents and construction costs (see chart below).

While my overall view of the Australian housing market is pessimistic, it is by no means uniform, with some capital cities providing superior investment prospects than others.

In this report, I provide my 12-month price forecasts for each of Australia’s capital city housing markets, based on consideration of key price drivers: housing finance; housing supply; affordability; and the macroeconomic outlook. My forecasts are based on a “stable” economy, and would change materially should conditions deteriorate (e.g. a Chinese “hard landing”).

Sydney

Relative to the rest of the nation, Sydney’s housing market has displayed resilience, with detached house values declining by 6.4 per cent since peak and unit values remaining flat as at May 2012, according to RP Data-Rismark. This result compares with declines of 8.1 per cent (houses) and 2.8 per cent (units) at the national capital city level.

Over the next 12-months, Sydney’s home prices are projected to perform slightly better than the national average, experiencing a price shift of between minus-3 per cent and 1 per cent.

While Sydney home prices are the most expensive in the nation on a price-to-income basis, due to its relatively attractive rental returns, Sydney’s price-to-rent ratio is below the national average, suggesting that buying is relatively more attractive than renting.

Sydney’s housing market is also relatively supply-constrained, experiencing one of the lowest home construction rates in the nation.

The number of homes for sale in Sydney is also not particularly elevated, and has fallen from this time last year.

In addition, Rental vacancy rates, while higher than last year, are below the national average, as is the average time taken to sell a home.

Melbourne

Melbourne’s recent price performance has been poor, declining by 11.0 per cent (houses) and 7.4 per cent (units) since peak as at May 2012, according to RP Data-Rismark. Yet, despite the sharp decline in values, Melbourne’s housing market still offers the worst investment fundamentals in the nation and is the market most at risk of a severe house price correction.

Our baseline forecast is for Melbourne home prices to decline by between 5 per cent and 8 per cent over the next 12 months. This pessimistic view is based a wide range of considerations.

First, Melbourne home prices are the second-most expensive in the nation on a price-to-income basis, and owing to its very low rental returns, the most expensive when home prices are compared against rents. Melbourne’s housing supply is also relatively abundant, with the rate of construction running well above average, as are the number of homes for sale, which are nearly 20 per cent above last year’s levels.

There is also significant construction in the pipeline.

Brisbane

Brisbane’s recent price performance has been poor, declining by 12.4 per cent (houses) and 10.8 per cent (units) since peak as at May 2012, according to RP Data-Rismark. However, investment fundamentals are improving, which should result in above-average performance over the coming 12 months, with prices forecast to shift by between minus-2 per cent and 2 per cent.

Brisbane home prices are relatively affordable, with its ratio of house prices-to-incomes the second lowest out of the major capitals and its home prices compared to rents the lowest, suggesting that buying is relatively attractive compared with renting.

Housing supply in Brisbane is tightening, with dwelling construction rates running below average and the number of homes for sale some 8 per cent below last year’s levels (albeit still elevated). Rental vacancy rates in Brisbane also remain tight relative to both the national average and last year’s levels.

Perth

Perth’s housing market is likely to be a star performer over the coming year. Although values have declined by 9.5 per cent (houses) and 4.7 per cent (units) since peak, which are above the average decline nationally, fundamentals have improved significantly, which should support price growth of between 2 per cent and 5 per cent over the next 12 months.

Affordability in Perth has improved considerably, with home prices relative to incomes the lowest in the nation, and prices compared with rents below the national average.

Rents are also rising sharply – up by around 16 per cent over the past year according to RP Data – caused by a rental vacancy rate that is the second lowest in the nation and has tightened considerably compared with the same period last year.

The tightening of Perth’s rental market has been driven by the highest population growth in the nation combined with a low rate of dwelling construction. The number of homes for sale is also relatively low, and has fallen by 14 per cent since the same period last year.

Adelaide

Adelaide’s housing market has performed surprisingly well, experiencing the lowest decline in values from peak in the nation (3.7 per cent for houses and 3.6 per cent for units as at May 2012, according to RP Data-Rismark). However, the good fortune is unlikely to last, with prices predicted to fall by 2 per cent to 5 per cent over the next 12 months.

Although Adelaide housing provides better-than-average affordability when measured against incomes, prices are more expensive than average when compared with rents.

The overall supply situation in Adelaide is deteriorating. Dwelling construction relative to population growth is the highest in the nation, whereas the number of homes for sale is elevated and some 3 per cent higher than the same period last year.

Hobart

Hobart’s housing market has been one of the weakest performers in the nation, declining by 11.8 per cent (houses) and 8.9 per cent (units) from peak as at May 2012, according to RP Data-Rismark.

A broad range of indicators suggest that Hobart housing is unlikely to improve any time soon, with prices predicted to decline by a further 4 per cent to 7 per cent over the next 12 months.

Housing affordability is not a key concern in Hobart, with home prices amongst the lowest in the nation compared to both incomes and rents.

Rather, the supply situation is deteriorating, with the number of homes for sale some 20 per cent higher than a year ago and dwelling construction rates relative to population growth running well above the national average. Similarly, rental vacancy rates in Hobart are around 50 per cent higher than this time last year and are the second highest in the nation after Melbourne.

Darwin

Darwin’s housing market has experienced the heaviest losses in Australia, falling by 15.2 per cent (houses) and 16.9 per cent (units) from peak as at May 2012, according to RP Data-Rismark.

However, key indicators suggest that Darwin’s fortunes are turning around, which should support price growth of between 3 per cent and 6 per cent over the next 12 months.

Affordability in Darwin has improved considerably, with home prices relative to incomes just below the national average, and prices compared to rents the second lowest in the nation. Rents have rising sharply – up by around 14 per cent (houses) over the past year according to APM – caused by a rental vacancy rate that is the lowest in the nation and has tightened considerably over the past year.

The tightening of Darwin’s rental market has been driven by the lowest rate of dwelling construction in the nation. Meanwhile, the number of homes for sale is also relatively low, and has fallen by 30 per cent since the same period of last year.

Canberra

Relative to the rest of the nation, Canberra’s housing market has displayed resilience, with values declining by 5.0 per cent (houses) and 7.9 per cent (units) since peak, according to RP Data-Rismark.

However, the outlook for the capital is mixed, resulting in projected price shift of between minus-3 per cent to 0 per cent over the coming year.

Although Canberra’s housing market is relatively affordable – with prices relative to both incomes and rents below the national average – the supply situation has deteriorated somewhat, driven by a recent housing construction boom, as well as a near doubling in the number of homes offered for sale over the past two years. Canberra’s rental vacancy rate, too, has been rising, although it remains roughly half that of the national average.

Leith van Onselen is the Chief Economist at the Macro Investor newsletter. He has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs. To read the full Australian Cities Housing Valuation Report 2012/13, sign up for your free trial at Macro Investor (www.macroinvestor南京夜网.au)

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

Pain au chocolat, perfume and parfait

Pain au chocolat, perfume and parfait

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Watch MasterChef right here, right now!

Every episode of this season of Masterchef available on demand.

Oh bonjour!

*air kiss*

Welcome, ça va? Do come in. Can I get you a café au lait? Champagne? Please settle in and take a seat for tonight’s episode of “The Pastry Shop of Pain”.

The Pepé Le Pew of Patisseries, Vincent Gadan, is in the house and his cloche is bulging with charming confectionary just for you.

For tonight’s elimination challenge, Gadan is the culinary equivalent of François Truffaut and he’s whipped up something a lot like a French New Wave film – it’s a sexy tale which takes about two hours to fully comprehend.

Scissor-wielding Andrew, pipe layer Beau and nurse Amina failed (epically) in front of His Royal Heston and now must pay the price and risk having their “I want to pursue a career in the food industry” dreams smashed by “not just a dessert but a way of life”.

This ain’t going to be a cake walk.

“This is a dish for all the pretty ladies out there,” Gadan coos as he unveils a bottle of perfume made of parfait.

He explains the inspiration for the red-cocoa-covered creation, titled “Essence of Woman”, is his mother’s birthday. While the peanut gallery looks perplexed and Freud has a field day, Andrew and Sean take a closer look as Amina whips out her high school French to wish Chef Gadan’s mère a happy birthday.

Well played Miss A – Gadan bounces over and plants a smooch on her hands. “Show off,” mutters Andrew, who’s clearly worn his cranky pants today, as Beau holds his paw out for the same bromantic treatment.

“I tried to make it as beautiful as a woman,” Gadan grins as Matt, Gaz and Curious George back away from the dessert that looks like something van Gogh has thrown up (and successfully bank rolled).

After tasting the frozen salted hazelnut parfait, rhubarb coulis, crystalised violets (for floral crunch) and sugar bubble, Andrew, who considers himself the “black ninja” for facing four elimination rounds, and Amina, who hates pretty things, get started while elimination virgin Sean cracks under the scrutiny.

“It tastes like perfume but in a good way,” he exclaims.

Blame it on the raised blood sugars or the heat in the kitchen, but Beau has opened the tear flood gates. In the peanut gallery, Audra is sobbing over the railing as Beau delves into his back story. Turns out the day he was handed a Top 20 apron he was also accepted into the fire brigade – a dream he previously spent five years chasing.

George pipes up to inform the troops that tonight’s challenge has three “pressure points”. They are: 1. the salted parfait 2. the tempered chocolate and 3. the icomoulds which, once melted, look like the sickly sweet coating of a toffy apple or hot wax found at the beautician.

The trio have two hours to recreate the perfume bottle dessert. As eggs are whipped and gelatine is prepared, Chef Garan approaches Beau.

“Have you ever made parfait?” he asks.

“Nah,” Beau replies.

“Have you ever tempered chocolate?”

“Nah.”

“Have you ever used isomoulds?”

“Nah.”

And MasterChef 2012 is back! Looking forward to next week’s elimination challenge where they attempt to recreate Vegemite on ciabatta.

“Well did you taste your parfait?” he asks through clenched teeth.

“Slightly,” the tradie says.

Gaz steps in to diffuse the situation dragging Chef Gadan away. He’s staring Beau down like a French bulldog ready to pounce on Coq au Vin left overs.

Once he’s calmed down, the four judges have a CWA meeting to discuss and dissect the intricacies of the intricate dish, while Andrew snaps angrily at his support crew and abandons the recipe by doing four things at once. Meanwhile, over on the next bench, Amina’s dish is beginning to erode as she dumps fistfuls of salt into the parfait mixture, which is meant to taste like salty peanut butter not the Pacific Ocean.

The parfaits are now freezing and its temper time – enter death by chocolate.

Andrew decides to grate “three million grams” of the dark chocolate before boiling it and throwing it onto the transfer paper. As the peanut gallery shriek in terror at his disregard for the art of crisp and shiny chocolate, Amina and Beau go about expressing themselves on the cocoa-covered canvases.

Andrew’s woes follow him into the next phase – making the nozzle and pipe of the perfume bottle.

His sweaty palms are turning his gold-dust-covered shapes into what a box of Cadbury Roses looks like after spending an afternoon in the December sun.

MasterChef Beauty School then begins when Amina spray tans her parfait with the red velvet cocoa butter. The boys follow as she sets about melting down her isomoulds. As Andrew questions which planet these crystals come from, Beau chooses to make his goo with a gold hue.

“Why yellow?” Chef Garan asks.

“It looks like honey, you know, it’s sweet like a woman,” he grins as knees around the nation buckle and bile rises in some throats.

The melted isomoulds are poured onto a silicon mat where they react with vodka, dry and turn into a sticky, wax pot mess.

With less than one minute remaining no one is close to plating up, Amina has a minor existential crisis when her hardened isomould structures and tempered chocolate towers don’t stand to attention and Andrew can’t stop admiring how sexy the zebra print chocolate transfers are.

Times up! Step away from your beauty/cooking benches!

The judges want Andrew first and so off he trots to serve his version of the “Essence of Woman”.

Chef Gadan smashes through the creation like a bully smashing through sand castles on the beach, while the others nod in unison that it lacks texture and the chocolate has not been treated right.

Beau’s isomould has them captivated as does his crunch, salt and all round presentation.

“What’s the story behind the flame?” they ask.

“It represents the time I missed out on an opportunity to be a fire fighter,” as the tears begin to well again.

Matt believes it’s now time for Beau to join Julia and Jules for a dessert ménage a trios.

“He needs to start hanging out with the ‘I can nail tricky desserts’ gang, he’s no longer with Ben and Andy in the beefy, bloke gang.”

As the strains of the cello come to a crescendo, the judges determine that what Amina’s dish lacks in presentation she makes up for with flavour and they can’t get enough of her salty parfait and freeze-dried rhubarb.

Ultimately, Andrew’s lack of acidity and soft chocolate shards stop the clock on his time in the MasterChef kitchen. It’s a blessing because he’s got an arsenal of inspirational postcard messages he’s been waiting to use.

“Be fearless!” he cries.

“Just because you don’t think you can, doesn’t mean you can’t,” he adds.

Back at the house and the news of his departure hits Mindy and the other long-haired lasses like a “ton of bricks” – possibly because there’s no one left to touch up their highlights or create an on-trend immunity challenge up ‘do tomorrow night.

Once he finishes making his kids’ pizza and he realises he isn’t the 15thDalai Lama specialising in dining, he plans to open a ready-made meals business for foodies who can’t be bothered to cook.

Fin.

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