An n “gift to science” has been named the winner of a global competition.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Sandy the purebred desert dingo beat four international finalists to take first place in the World’s Most Interesting Genome Competition.

The win will give n scientists the opportunity to decode her DNA and test a hypothesis raised by Charles Darwin almost 150 years ago.

The public determined the winner of the annual competition. Sandy edged out a Temple Pitviper snake, a solar-powered sea slug, an explosive bombardier beetle and a pink pigeon to claim 41 per cent of votes. Up for grabs was the Pacific Biosciences SMRT Grant, which enables sequencing of the complete genome of an important animal or plant.

???The proposal to study Sandy’s DNA was led by Professor Bill Ballard from the University of NSW, with Professor Claire Wade of the University of Sydney, Dr Richard Melvin of UNSW, Dr Robert Zammit of the Vineyard Veterinary Hospital and Dr Andre Minoche of the Garvan Institute of Medical Research also part of the project.

The sequencing will be carried out at the University of Arizona.

“We are thrilled that our bid to have Sandy’s DNA sequenced captured the public’s imagination,” Professor Ballard, from UNSW’s School of Biotechnology and Biomolecular Sciences, said.

Professor Ballard has previously said Darwin theorised that there are two steps to the process of domestication: unconscious selection, as a result of non-intentional human influences, and artificial selection, through deliberate human activities such as breeding.

Sequencing Sandy’s DNA will allow scientists to examine the changes in genes associated with the process of domestication.

“Sandy is truly a gift to science,” Professor Ballard said. “As a rare, wild-born pure dingo, she provides a unique case study. Pure dingoes are intermediate between wild wolves and domestic dogs, with a range of non-domesticated traits. So sequencing Sandy’s genome will help pinpoint some of the genes for temperament and behaviour that underlie the transition from wild animals to perfect pets.”

Professor Ballard added that “learning more about dingo genetics will help efforts to conserve these wonderful n animals, through the development of improved tests for dingo purity”.

Sandy and her siblings, Eggie and Didi, were three weeks old when they were found motherless near the Strzelecki Track in central in 2014 by Barry and Lyn Eggleton, who raised the pups themselves.

Purebred desert dingoes are increasingly rare in as the native animals interbreed with wild and domestic dogs and are targeted as pests by landholders.

Scientists at the UNSW’s Ramaciotti Centre for Genomics have worked on the genomes of other important native species including the koala, the Tasmanian devil, the wombat, the platypus, the Queensland fruit fly and the Wollemi Pine.

“We’re very proud of UNSW’s history of contribution to genomics and we are delighted that Sandy’s genome will now be sequenced as the prize for winning this competition,” UNSW molecular biologist and Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education), Professor Merlin Crossley, said.

” has so many interesting animals to sequence and the results enhance our understanding of evolution and biology and help improve agriculture and pest management.”

Read More →

UH OH: State Transit overestimated the number of kilometres travelled by the Newcastle bus fleet by more than a million kilometres.A COMPUTER glitch is being blamed for the incorrect reporting of transport statistics for Newcastle buses, with a state government performance document showing the fleet travelled a million more kilometres than it actually did.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Also contained within the State Transit performance report – which measures on-time running, reliability and patronage– was a false claim that the bus fleet completed an extra 51,000 timetabled trips in the year between December 2015and 2016.

It was only after aNewcastle Heraldinquiry on Wednesday, prompted by concerns raised by public transport advocate Darrell Harris,that bureaucrats realised the errors and began to rewrite the reports the next day.

State Transit said the problem was a “software issue” that resulted in a duplication oftimetabled trips and kilometres travelled.

“In May 2016,StateTransitupgraded its scheduling software …. During this upgrade, it appears there were some issues experienced with the interface between two software systems, resulting in some trips being duplicated in this report,” a State Transit spokesman said.

In the December 2015 quarter, Newcastle busestravelled about 2.3 million kilometres. But the next quarter, in June 2016, thereport showed, the buses travelled about 3 million kilometres. By December 2016, the fleet travelled 3.6 million kilometres –a difference of about 1.3 million kilometres on the year before, which is the equivalent of roughly 170 Newcastle to Perth return trips.

The correct March 2016 report shows the bus fleet only travelled 2.1 million killometres.

And there was only one extra service –route 508 –a school bus – added to the timetable in July last year.

Mr Harris, who analyses public transport data in detail, was gobsmacked by the incorrect information.

A telling sign, Mr Harris joked, were the missing press releases from the transport minister trumpeting the 51,000 new bus services in the Newcastle area.

State Transit removed nearly a year’s worth of performance reports from its website on Thursday.

Read More →

I loathe the monotony of housework and the intrusion into time when I could be doing, well, anything else. However, I do love the feeling of pride as I gaze at my sparkling benchtops and gleaming floors.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

Unfortunately that glow is short-lived as my teenagers traipse in grass and sand, use every pot and dish in the kitchen to make snacksand leave Hansel and Gretel trails of discarded shoes, books, wrappers and clothes throughout the house.

A well-ordered home is something I try to keep on top of, but watching my kids play sport or meeting friends for lunch will always take precedence.

If I have to run out the door at a moment’s notice, I don’t worry that my house may look like someone has picked it up and shaken it.

Deanna, a close friend, is not so relaxed.

“If someone came over and the dishes weren’t done and my bed wasn’t made it would stress me out,” she says. “I won’t leave the house unless it’s clean. I can’t leave it.”

Deanna wakes at six every morning and follows a rigid cleaning regime until eight. Photo: Goldmund

Psychologist, Tania Coats, says 95 per centof our thoughts are “junk”.

A random one about raw chicken might pop into someone’s head and be dismissed immediately, but in an OCD sufferer the meaning and responseto that same thought may trigger a compulsion to clean out an entire fridge, just in case raw chicken contaminated other food.

Deanna understands her behaviour is extreme and on occasions resents the impact on her life.

She rarely entertains as her inability to leave dirty dishes until guests have lefthas incurred hurtful, sarcastic comments, and she has to fight the urge to clean around people.

“Many clients with cleaning-type OCD find themselves quite isolated and withdrawn, fearing the consequences of allowing people into their homes,” Coats says.

She adds feelings of inadequacy in childhood could be linked to a compulsion to clean as adults.

“Whether it is to control the environment to achieve a sense of safety, or to demonstrate perfection so as to achieve approval and acceptance.”

An obsession with cleanliness may stem from Deanna’s childhood.

Sheremembers a clean room being the one thing she could control – her bedperfectly flat andpillow propped at an exact height. Not prepared to blame anyone, Deanna concedes:“I’ve accepted that’s who I am. Everyone has an addiction and that’s just mine.”

Luckily for me,Deanna’s need for extreme cleaning doesn’t extend outside her house and she feels comfortable in my less than pristinehome. But I have to admit, I sometimes wish she would feel compelled to pick up my vacuum, or mop, or cloth.


Read More →

You’d think shooting a movie in Germany, and at least partly in German, would count as a huge challenge for an n director. But not Cate Shortland. Having pulled off that substantial trick with Lore in 2012, she says, “I wasn’t as terrified the second time around”.
SuZhou Night Recruitment

But making her tense psycho-sexual thriller Berlin Syndrome didn’t come without its challenges. Top of the list was the fact that while some of it was shot in the German capital, much of it was in fact filmed at Docklands Studios in Melbourne, in a set constructed to mirror exactly the Berlin apartment at the heart of its claustrophobic action.

Adapted by Shaun Grant and Shortland from Melanie Joosten’s 2011 novel of the same name, Berlin Syndrome is about a young n traveller called Clare (Teresa Palmer) who stumbles into a fleet-footed romance with Andi (Max Riemelt), a Berliner and English teacher, only to find herself a prisoner in his apartment in an abandoned part of the former East Berlin.

Shortland, who grew up in Canberra and made her mark with her stunning debut feature Somersault in 2004, says she could identify wholeheartedly with Clare and the situation she finds herself in.

“Being from a really suburban n background and the whole idea of Europe being so exciting, so much better, that as ns we’re lesser – I related to that,” she says.

“Clare has been brought up well, she’s got manners, she’s kind – and in the end that’s what traps her. She’s a good girl and she knows instinctually that something is going wrong, but we teach young women not to speak out. I related completely to that, and so did Teresa [Palmer], because we’ve both had situations in our lives where we’ve known things weren’t right, but because you’ve been brought up to have manners, you don’t speak out.”

Clare is a lonely character, travelling by herself, lurking uncomfortably on the fringes of groups of fellow backpackers, wandering the streets with her camera as eye and shield. She’s an architectural photographer seeking escape from something unidentified back home, and slowly willing herself to open up to new possibilities.

“There was a lot of Teresa in Clare – the wanting to be liked, the being really unsure of herself, wanting to lead an exciting life,” says Shortland. “When you’re in your 20s and you’ve got such an open heart and you’re so excited about the world – how do you balance that beautiful excitement and naivety with the realities of what the world is? How do we teach young people to keep that openness, to keep that excitement and to also just be aware, you know?”

We first meet Clare on the street, but she’s soon confined to the apartment-prison, the trees shedding their leaves and the drifting of snowflakes the only indicators of how long she has been there (somewhere between nine months and a year, says Shortland). Andi, though, gets to have a life beyond those walls. We see him teaching English and sport at school, we see him at parties with his workmates, we see him with his much-loved father.

In short, we see Andi as a human being, albeit a deeply flawed and rather dangerous one.

“We didn’t want him to be a monster on the outside – we wanted him to be a monster on the inside,” says Shortland. “He wants to create this perfect world and this perfect relationship. What you’ve got is this angel face who can rationalise to himself what he’s doing.”

She’d never heard of Riemelt, an up-and-coming star in Germany, who has been acting since he was nine years old. But he instantly captured what she was looking for.

“Some of the other people we looked at just played it really aggressively, but Max always said the character hated what he had to do to her. He rationalised it, which a lot of people do, so that he could reach some sort of equilibrium and peace in the apartment, so he could put the relationship back on track.

“The character’s very Prussian – and he has that. He is that guy – not entirely, but there’s a lot of darkness in Max, but you don’t see it.”

That’s a slightly scary thought, isn’t it, that your handsome, charming leading man should have such a ready grasp of the monster within?

“Yeah, it is,” Shortland agrees. “But the thing is you have to take morality out of it – that’s what we do. It’s not about being good people or creating perfect worlds. It’s about all the dark, scary complicated messes, the universes inside us that we just don’t talk about. We don’t tell our partners all the shit in our heads – I bet you don’t.

“That’s what’s really exciting, when you’re in rehearsals and you can actually go to these really terrible places and talk about things you wouldn’t bring up over dinner with your friends. It’s really liberating. And then you can go and pick up your daughter from school and take her to the swimming pool and go and get an ice-cream. You’re back in the real world. It’s kind of a beautiful thing, really.”

Berlin Syndrome goes to some very dark places indeed. It never quite strays into torture porn, though it does hover on the fringes of serious creepiness. Mostly, though, it plays out as an extended metaphor for abusive relationships – the age-old scenario of a woman falling for a man who appears to be one thing but turns out to be something else, a man whose grip only tightens as her need and desire to escape increases.

“We all get trapped in relationships where we want to get out. It’s just that this one is a bit more extreme. Well, a lot more extreme.”

But for Shortland, the metaphor goes even further. “The power dynamic in the relationship, even the architecture of the relationship, the structure the couple were in, somehow mirrors the totalitarian state,” she says. “I think it’s impossible to make a film in Germany that doesn’t somehow speak to its history.”

Berlin is really the third main character in the movie, a city whose abandoned spaces present all sorts of opportunities, both positive and negative. It was always going to be necessary to film there but, because the $5.5 million budget was almost entirely n funded, it was also necessary to film here – hence the recreated apartment in Melbourne.

Of course, a studio set can be anywhere, but there were aspects of that split shoot that proved “really tricky”, says Shortland – for the cast as well as her.

“Every time you see a character near a window or engaging with the outside world, we shot that in Germany, and then they would walk backwards or we’d cut around them and we’d be in Melbourne,” she says. There’s one scene, she explains, where a visitor comes to the door of the apartment. The shot from the visitor’s point of view, looking in to the apartment, was shot in Berlin; the shot from Clare’s point of view, looking towards the visitor, was shot in Melbourne.

“I thought we couldn’t do it, I thought what a strange puzzle,” Shortland says. “But somehow we did.”

Karl Quinn is on facebook at karlquinnjournalist and on twitter @karlkwin

Read More →

12 Norwood Avenue, BrightonSimone Callahan selling up Photo: Nick Johnstone Real EstateShane Warne buys his old Brighton house backInside Warnie’s new (old) padShane Warne sells another Brighton home
SuZhou Night Recruitment

The Shane Warne-Simone Callahan Brighton property roundabout has cranked up again with the listing of the luxury Mediterranean-style house that the cricket legend’s former wife has called home for just under three years.

The couple has traded many a multimillion-dollar mansion in the elite precinct, individually and together, clearly rating highly its exclusive tree-lined streets of quality residences, proximity to the beach and access to good schools for their three teenage children.

Former model Simone Callahan hasn’t been idle in the time she’s enjoyed the two-storey property with pool at 12 Norwood Avenue, Brighton. Impressive as it was in July 2014 when she paid $2,615,000, according to land titles, Ms Callahan has since completed major renovations which included reconfiguring the living areas, redoing the kitchen and bathrooms, laying wide-board French oak flooring, painting and converting part of the over-sized garage into an en-suited bedroom as a teen retreat or guest suite.

She also turned a backyard cabana/solarium into a glass-domed yoga room with adjoining powder room ??? a big selling point, considering Ms Callahan has attributed her fitness and physique to yoga practice.

The private-sale price guide for Autun, a five-bedroom, four-bathroom house with formal and informal living rooms, is about $4 million, according to leading bayside agentNick Johnstone. He said it would be “great value” at that price and it had created a stir of interest immediately it was listed.

Mr Johnstone declined to comment on Ms Callahan’s reasons for selling but was happy to praise the elegance and spaciousness of the upscaled property. “It’s just a beautiful home, and six doors from the beach,” he said. “The fixtures and fittings are all excellent, it flows through to the outdoor area perfectly, and it’s beautifully finished.”

A 10-minute stroll from the cafes and boutique shops of buzzy Church Street, the cul de sac between the railway line and The Esplanade is private and neighbourly. Brighton’s pretty bathing boxes are at the nearby beach, where Callahan was snapped paddle-boarding with style in the shallows over summer, looking fit and tanned.

Back home, the pool has been the summertime centre of attention, along with the new covered alfresco barbecue and dining spot that has direct access to the family room. Adjusting internal walls has flipped the emphasis from formal to casual living, so that almost the entire rear width of the house is an open-plan living/dining and kitchen with French doors, including half a dozen forming a semi-circle, to the paved terrace.

And for stylish entertaining, the kitchen has gained Miele appliances and Calacatta marble surfaces as well as a walk-in pantry.

Read More →