Sunday, 30 November 2014

Family gathering

My brother-in-law and his family had arrived back from Singapore yesterday for a brief visit to the old folks and in celebration, we took the opportunity for a rare full family gathering at one of the seafood restaurants in Tambun on the mainland side of Penang. Thereafter, we adjourned back home to Simpang Ampat for this photo opportunity. I think everyone's here except for Michelle, Shirween and Adrian, but they are in Kuala Lumpur.

Friday, 28 November 2014

JobStreet's dividend history (JOBST)

I noticed that JobStreet Corporation Berhad, listed on Bursa Malaysia as JOBST, had issued their latest quarterly report on its consolidated results for the financial period that ended on 30 Sep 2014. As a former staff of, I am naturally very interested to see what's happening to my former workplace especially when there is such a lot of interest in its future direction.

Now, (almost) everyone would already know that JobStreet has already finished with its final stage of disposing off its jobs portal business to SEEK Asia Investment, and in fact, the deal was concluded on the 20th of this month when SEEK Asia transferred RM1,562.8 million into JobStreet's account. On that day, JobStreet's founder, Mark Chang, stepped down as the CEO of the company.

This protracted negotiation of the Proposed Disposal of the jobs portal business by JobStreet to SEEK Asia had been going on for quite a while - since February this year - but it was not without its own nail-biting moments.

While it was generally accepted that the sale of the business would go through smoothly, it had been recognised that there could be some sticky moments with the Singapore authorities who were concerned that SEEK Asia could come to monopolise the jobs portal business in the Republic as the latter already owned JobStreet's greatest rival, JobsDB. Together, JobStreet and JobsDB would corner possibly more than 90 percent of the business in Singapore.

But after a lengthy period of fact-finding investigation - during which time, the shareholders of JobStreet were all nervously put on edge - the Competition Commission Singapore (CCS) concluded that there would be no infringement of their Singapore Competition Act (Cap. 50B) provided that SEEK Asia implemented and complied with their own Proposed Commitments and the Proposed Divestiture Commitment (which are both too lengthy for me to disclose here but can always be read from the CCS or SEEK websites). In issuing the favourable decision, CCS accepted the Proposed Commitments offered by SEEK Asia in order to address the potential competition concerns that may arise from the Proposed Disposals.

But back to this quarterly report, it more or less summarised a lot of the recent developments of the company. Amidst all the gobbledy-gook in the report is the news of the payment of the Special Single-Tier Dividend to JobStreet shareholders on Christmas Eve. Yes, the money that has been received from SEEK Asia will be returned to the shareholders and it will be worth RM2.65 per share. Although the news is welcoming indeed for clarifying the occasionally nail-biting situation, it also brings some sobering thoughts because the company that we have known since 1995 will no longer be the same anymore.

Throughout its 10 years of listing on the Bursa Malaysia, the company has been paying out dividends, but none as good as in the last two or three years. It was listed at the end of 2004 but for that year, no dividend was paid. In 2005, it declared a total dividend payment of 2.75 sen against an IPO price of 54 sen per share. In 2006, the dividend payment was a modest 1.5 sen.

In 2007, JobStreet declared a bonus issue of two ordinary shares for every ordinary share of 10 sen each, followed by an immediate consolidation of two ordinary shares of 10 sen each after the bonus issue into one new ordinary share of 20 sen each in the company. What this meant effectively was that if you had bought 10,000 shares of JobStreet at its IPO price of 54 sen in 2004, you would now end up with 15,000 shares at an adjusted IPO price of 36 sen at the end of 2007.

Subsequent to this bonus issue-cum-consolidation exercise, the company declared a total dividend payment of 5.0 sen for 2007, 3.5 sen for 2008 and 3.0 sen for 2009. In 2010, the company announced a new dividend policy to return approximately 50 percent of the company's profit after tax and minority interests to the shareholders. As a result, shareholders received dividend payments totalling 6.5 sen in 2010, 7.0 sen in 2011 and 9.25 sen in 2012.

In May 2013, there was again a new dividend policy to return up to 75 percent of the company's profit after tax and minority interests to the shareholders on a quarterly basis, and also a share split exercise in September. Dividend pay-out for that year amounted to 9.25 sen. (To receive a total dividend of 9.25 sen is akin to receiving an interest rate pay-out of 25 percent on your initial investment amount in 2004; an impressive return on investment.)

For 2014, the dividends declared for pay-out till today amounted to 5.25 sen, excluding the Special Dividend declared. But will there be a fourth interim dividend declared next year or indeed, will there be a final dividend too? Remember, JobStreet was still earning from its jobs portal business until the 20th of November when SEEK Asia finally transmitted their payment over into JobStreet's account. So we may jolly well expect the last of JobStreet's generous dividend payments to still come through.

For a person who had invested RM5,400 for 10,000 JobStreet shares in 2004, converted to 15,000 shares of 20 sen each in 2007 and 30,000 shares of 10 sen each in 2013 , he would have received back RM9,387.50 in dividends through the years. Not too bad a performance for a company that started out simply by matching jobs to job seekers way back in 1995 and grew into the finest Internet company in Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia and India, and at one stage also with forays into Thailand, Bangladesh and Vietnam. The company still has on-going interests in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Penang Free School (PFS) school register

I've been making some visits to the Penang Free School archives to look up some of the old materials and documents in preparation for the PFS Bicentenary book that's due out in October 2016.

Of course, while looking through the mouldy old documents, I couldn't help looking at the old school registers that recorded our entries as pupils into this school. In particular, of course, the entries of all my old school mates that had entered Penang Free School from the Remove classes in 1965 till the Upper Six classes in 1972.

Extracted out the whole list of them. All in, we were 566 names strong, of which 291 had entered Form One together in 1966. We had another 150 who joined the school in 1965 as Remove class pupils but I don't remember all of them going on to Form One because when I joined Form One, there were only seven afternoon classes. Even assuming that each class consisted of 45 pupils, that would mean only 315 pupils. Thus, it was only a handful of Remove class pupils that were promoted to Form One at the Penang Free School in 1966. So what had happened to the rest of them? Dropped out? Transferred to another school?

In 1967, four more pupils joined our batch in Form Two and in 1968, so did another four pupils for Form Three. In 1969, we were in Form Four and the school register showed that we welcomed 30 more pupils that had transferred to the Free School from various other secondary schools in the state and elsewhere.

Form Five in 1970 was our Malaysian Certificate of Education year and there were four more pupils that joined our batch. In 1971, the school received 81 pupils - now young men and young women - into our Lower Six classrooms and in 1972 when we sat for the Higher School Certificate, two more joined our Upper Six classes.

In all, as I mentioned earlier, we were 566 names strong. Unfortunately, the register did not record those who had left the school at different paths of their education.

Also, I suspect that the school clerk did not record the names of anybody who had joined the school on Day One but had left almost immediately. I know of at least one friend who did that. He entered Penang Free School on the first day of school but left on the next day as his father had registered him into a Singaporean institution. His name was missing from the school register.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Movember me

I may look unkempt lately but hey, it's alright. After all, it's that time of the year. It's the month of Movember, remember? That's when I usually let my facial hair down and let it grow whichever way it may.

Of course, there is nothing much to crow about up there but at least, I can still let the rest of me assume that scraggly look. Especially when there's now a lot more white sprinkled among the black. Come to think of it, the whites have started to dominate the blacks already!

It's been close to four weeks already and my wife's been asking me when I'm going to take it off.

I reminded her that I've looked far more better (or worse) before. In 2000, I had actually sported a one-inch beard while working at Ban Hin Lee Bank and when I organised the Wah Seong Penang international master chess tournament, but I took it off in the middle of 2001 when I joined Making a new statement with a new job.

But this time around, there's no new job waiting for me; not when I'm already retired from full-time employment for several years now and I spend my time in writing and seeking clients who need a bit of my expertise as a personal estate planner. Scratching your head? Okay, to cut the puzzlement short, I help them to write their wills and set up their trusts.

But going back to the subject of my present unkempt and scraggly look during Movember month, I told my wife that I'd most probably shave them off after the first week of December. My deadline is the eighth or ninth of next month. Anyway, sometime during the second week of December. That would be just after the end of this year's Penang Chess League. I'm playing, see, and I want to keep my scraggly good looks on until that tournament ends. It will be a good talking point for people who sees me at the tournament hall.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Last words on Power 1 Walnut

In 2008, I had been following quite closely the saga of the Power 1 Walnut sex-enhancing drug ever since news broke of a spate of deaths in Singapore from people who had been consuming this pill.

Six years on, it is time for me to pull a stop on this thread since this Power 1 Walnut, like most other designer drugs, has fallen out of favour with its users.

What prompted this decision was this story in Singapore's The Straits Times newspaper today that said since 2010, sex drug dealers were now targeting lonely old men to buy and peddle their wares.

The modus operandi was simple enough: a foreign woman - usually from China (and why is it that I'm not surprised??) - zeros in on an elderly man at coffee shops and chats him up, often telling sob stories to gain sympathy and trust. Then, she'd start asking for a favour to have some packages delivered to the man's home, for which he gets paid between SGD150 and SGD500 per delivery. Some men would also receive sexual favours. When the man is busted by the authorities, the foreign woman simply disappears.

Apparently, from 2010 to last year, the newspaper reported that Singapore's Health Sciences Authority (HSA) had conducted 169 raids in Geylang and seized about 2.5 million pills and products worth more than SGD6 million.

Twenty-six people were either jailed or fined for peddling sex drugs over that period, and those caught faced up to two years in jail and/or a maximum fine of SGD10,000.

And yet, of course, some of these so-called "lonely old man" were not undeterred by the punishments because of the prospects of receiving easy money or, in some cases, the free sex.

But more significantly, this brief mention of the Power 1 Walnut drug at the end of the report had caught my eye.

According to the newspaper: "The notorious Power 1 Walnut, which was linked to a spate of deaths in 2008, is no longer sold here, said Prof Chan."

On this note, this shall be the last you shall hear from me on this matter.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Li Chun (立春), 2015

I was flipping through the calendar in the kitchen this morning and realised that today is the first day of the Chinese 10th lunar month, which meant that for the past 59 days, we had been living through an extended ninth lunar month of the Chinese calendar.

This set me thinking because the ninth lunar month has always been the month of prayers and celebration of the Nine Emperor Gods. And I distinctly remember that we in Malaysia had been celebrating this occasion from the 24th of September until the second of October. Those dates would have made it almost two months ago and yet, we were still in the ninth lunar calendar month until yesterday!

At first, this did not make sense because how could a lunar month be 59 days long? Then I took a closer look at the calendar. The mystery unravelled itself. From the 24th of October until yesterday, the 21st of November, we have been living through what is known as the intercalary ninth lunar month.

This is an extra month inserted into the Chinese lunar calendar every third year or so to compensate for the shorter Chinese lunar year when compared to the consistent mean solar year (365.2425 days) which is the time it takes the sun to move across the sky and return to the same relative position in the sky every year as seen from the earth.

The intercalary month in the Chinese lunar calendar need not always be the ninth lunar month. It can be any month, depending on some complex calculations and astrological observations vis-a-vis the position of the moon and sun in the sky, but what it does is that it brings the Chinese lunar calendar into closer conformity with the other measurement of time using the Chinese luni-solar calendar which is roughly equivalent to 365¼ days.

For many of us, the Chinese luni-solar calendar is lesser known than the Chinese lunar calendar because many of our celebrations - such as Chinese New Year or the Dragon Boat dumpling festival or the Hungry Ghosts festival or the Mid-Autumn lantern festival or the Nine Emperor Gods festival - depend on the lunar calendar.

Yet the luni-solar calendar has its importance too and we have at least three significant dates that depend solely on the use of this calendar: the Lip Chun Coming of Spring (立春) on the fourth of February, Cheng Beng (清明) on either the fourth or fifth of April and the Tang Chik (Tung Chik) Winter Solstice (冬至) on either the 21st or 22nd of December.

At this time of the year, my thoughts always turn to the coming Lip Chun or Li Chun (立春) which marks the beginning of Spring in China and takes place officially on the fourth of February annually. On this date, the sun is deemed to have crossed the 315° longitude in the sky. The only question is to ascertain the time that it does so.

Without much reference material to read from, my only resource is this book by Joey Yap which is called The Ten Thousand Year Calendar (and yes, I got it signed by him, finally!)

It's a very useful book if you know what to use it for. Unfortunately for me, I've only two main uses for it and one of them is to find out when exactly is the time of Li Chun (立春) every year so that I can prepare for my annual family ritual of sticking that red piece of paper on my rice bucket to signify abundance for the forthcoming year.

Now having already established all this, let me tell you that this Ten Thousand Year Calendar book says that Li Chun (立春) will fall exactly on noon time (12p.m.) on 4 February 2015. For those referring to the Chinese lunar calendar, this is the 16th day of the 12th moon.

Meantime, here are my past blog entries on Li Chun (立春) through the recent past years:
Li Chun, 2014
Li Chun, 2013
Li Chun, 2012
Li Chun, 2011
Li Chun, 2010
Li Chun, 2009
Li Chun, 2008
Li Chun, 2007

Friday, 21 November 2014

Macau day trip

My wife has a habit: no matter whether we are at home or on holidays, invariably she would be the last person out of the door whenever we need to go somewhere. It was the same again when we were readying ourselves to buy our turbojet tickets to Macau in March this year. We were staying in Sheung Wan and I had to hurry her out of the hotel early enough to have our breakfast before walking over to the Hong Kong Macau Ferry Terminal. Once the tickets were bought, we were on our way.

The one-hour journey was smooth and uneventful, and soon we arrived at the Macau Maritime Ferry Terminal. And immediately, we hit a problem: hardly anyone we met outside the Macau Government Tourist Office at the terminal spoke English, and with us not speaking Portuguese, Cantonese or Mandarin, our only course of action was to arm ourselves with one of their tourist maps so that we could point and gesticulate to the destinations we wanted to go.

So what's available in Macau that could interest us immediately? When I was younger several decades ago, I had already known that Macau was the centre of legalised gambling in this part of the world. In the same breath, whenever Macau's name was mentioned, visions of roulette tables, blackjack tables and slot machines would spring to mind. The Casino Lisboa was practically the face of Macau from the 70s till the 90s. It's that famous, see?

In 2001, the Macau government eased restrictions on casinos operating here and today, I've been reading that there are as many as 33 casinos in this Special Administrative Region.

Unfortunately, I've never been a gambling man and my forays into casinos anywhere have always been out of curiosity than anything else. Same as in Macau, the only casino that we wandered into briefly was the Casino Lisboa and that was only because it was located down the road from the Avenida de Almeida Ribeiro. But I'm sure that many other people would have found entertainment inside the many other big-name casinos here.

So there we were, we hailed a taxi at the ferry terminal and pointed out to the driver that we wanted to go to the ruins of St Paul's. Well, maybe not exactly to the ruins itself, but maybe, just drop us off a distance away so that we could walk and have a look around one of Macau's busy commercial centres. We got off at the Avenida do Infante Dom Henrique, got our bearings correct and strolled to where the Largo de Senado (Senado Square) was.

The direction to the ruins couldn't be any simpler to ascertain. We simply had to follow the crowd. Everyone in the square was practically heading in the same direction as us or they were heading back. But actually, if we were just to walk directly to the ruins without stopping to observe the culture and activities around us, we would have missed a lot about everyday Macau street life.

Obviously, we weren't interested in the big business outlets with their branded goods; they were more or less the same everywhere. Instead we were more curious about the little mom-and-pop shops along the way: the little shops selling souvenir items and the little shops selling tasty snacks like dried sweet meats, meatballs on a stick, grilled pork chops in crispy buns, almond cookies and of course, their famous Portuguese egg tarts, It would be unforgivable to leave Macau without eating two or three or even more of these egg tarts!

Macau is actually much more than the casinos or the ruins of St Paul's. As my wife and I were only there on a very crowded day trip, we never got the chance to move far from the Senado Square or the ruins. Nevertheless, we did manage to visit the St Dominic's Church, the nearby Na Tcha Temple, the Civic and Municipal Affairs Bureau building and Mt Fortress.

We came away from our brief trip to Macau convinced that next time around, we must stay here for a couple more days. After all, Macau is an amazing place, both historical and modern, and visiting this place can be a great experience, especially if your first visit was short or incomplete or if you haven't been here before.  So if my wife and I were to visit Macau again, what will we be doing?

First thing is to explore the Macau historical centre again which incidentally, is also a UNESCO world heritage site. Apart from the ruins of St Paul's, there are so many more attractions such as the St Joseph's Church, the St Laurence's Church, Dom Pedro V Theatre, Mandarin's House, A-Ma's Temple and the Guia hills.

But history and culture aside, Macau has other modern-day attractions. I'm talking casinos now. Yes, the casinos. We'd certainly like to step foot into the casinos - yes, really visit them intentionally - not to gamble but to enjoy the side attractions like the gondola ride at the Venetian Macau and the Wynn Macau's water fountain show which I hear is rather spectacular.

And above all, there are also equally charming tourist alternatives such as the wine museum, the Macau Grand Prix and the grand prix museum, Fisherman's Wharf or the Macau Tower with its bungee jumping attraction, not that I'm game enough to try it (but my wife may want to).

In the early evening as we took the same turbojet ride back to Hong Kong, we looked back at this former Portuguese colony and saw Macau's newest casino, the Sands Macau, fading away into the background. Hopefully, we'll be back in the foreseeable future to explore more of this place.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Mark Chang's final message to

Well, the journey's over and a new chapter unfolds. My part in the journey was comparatively small but it was still a very humble experience to have been part of this remarkable journey with my friend, Mark Chang, and I have to thank him for it. I joined in June 2001 and retired in December 2009, which means that I gave my all to Mark for 8½ years of the company's 20-year existence.

The official handing over of's jobs portal business to Seek Asia takes effect from tomorrow, and these are the final words from Mark who steps down today as JobStreet's chief executive officer.

Although the message was meant for the existing staff of the company (who will find themselves reporting for work tomorrow as staff of Seek Asia), Mark has requested that it be made known to all former JobStreet staff too.

So here it is, Mark's final message:
Dear colleagues,
It is almost a 20-year start-up journey for us and we are closing the deal and officially handing over the management to Seek management team. 
The most important message I want to say to you and all our former staff is "Thank you". Thank you for all your sacrifices, loyalty, hard work and unselfish contributions all these years. Other people can claim but I know you are the ones who have done all the real work. You are the real unsung heroes of our company. With you in my wing, I had confidence to compete with the best in the world and we became the most successful Internet company in this region to date and touch the lives of millions. With you, I have so much joy in my work and with you, I have found meaning in my life. A simple "Thank you" does not sound sufficient but it is through this simple "Thank you" which encompasses all my wholehearted tributes and all my best intentions to each and everyone of you. 
At the end of today, I will no longer your CEO but I will be your friend for life. I ask your forgiveness for all the wrongs I have done. It has been a wonderful journey travelling with you. We did not really change the world; instead, the world has changed us. 
I learn that real wealth is not money and the money that I earned, I will give most away for good causes. Real wealth is what money cannot buy such as health, good relationship, happiness and peace of mind. May we, the mortal and foolish ones, have the wisdom to pick the right choices.
May you find what you seek.
Mark Chang

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Double rainbow

While out on the island yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to spot a breath-taking rainbow over the northern channel. A closer look revealed the presence of a much fainter inverted double rainbow above the main one.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

My exercise regime

Prior to my sickness in January this year, my weight was hovering around 74 kilogrammes but after my hospitalisation, I saw my weight plummet to 68 kilogrammes and it even reached a low of 66 kilogrammes in February. I can't say that I was unhappy about this loss in my weight but I was hoping that perhaps I could maintain this weight from then onwards.

But I've been noticing over the past months that my weight has been creeping up gradually and I was averaging around 70 kilogrammes. Darn....

Luckily also, as a consequence of my illness, I've been taking up a bit more of exercising. Previously, I had been doing a bit of hill trekking up the Bukit Mertajam hill in Cherok Tokun, which I consider as my backyard. But a spate of weak knees saw me giving up this exercise. My wife recommended that I walk around the neighbourhood instead as it would be on level ground and not as challenging on my knees. But to be truthful, I don't like it as I prefer the coolness of the hill. My knees feel much better now, after going on a prolonged course of glucosamine and chondroitin over several months and lately, I've decided on going back to the hill a few times.

However, my main exercise nowadays is a spot in the gymnasium at the Safira Club in Seberang Jaya. We have been members there since the club was formed in the 1980s or so, but we haven't really been making use of its facilities.

Since the beginning of this year, however, I had decided that perhaps I should start using the gymnasium more often.

For a very long time, I had been going there only once a week to use the treadmill. At least, on the treadmill, I know that I can control my pace. Unlike free-style walking around the neighbourhood or trekking the hills where I can stop or slow down whenever I like, the treadmill exercise will force me to continue walking non-stop at a steady pace for as long as I want.

What used to be a once-a-week exercise affair has recently turned into a twice-a-week regime. But I had been inspired by one of my friends, Durian Seng, who religiously goes to the gymnasium at Farlim on the Penang island everyday. He and his wife exercise there not only every day but twice a day - in the morning and then in the afternoon! That's dedication to health!

So I've been inspired by him and since last week, I thought, why not try going to my own gymnasium at Safira Club thrice a week? I tried it last week and it wasn't bad. I could stand the pace of walking on the treadmill for one hour at a time. And already this week, I've gone to the gymnasium twice already.

Yesterday, I happened to be on the island in the morning and I headed to The Old Frees' Association in Northam Road. There's a small annexe building there that used to house the association's photography section but several years ago, the management committee decided to clear away the disused equipment. There's now a gymnasium there.

So there I was yesterday morning to use the OFA gymnasium. Spent 75 minutes on the treadmill there and completed about eight kilometres.

This morning, it was back at the Safira Club. Getting rather addicted, I tried to see whether I could top yesterday's effort. And I did. Was on the treadmill for 92 minutes and I covered 10 kilometres. My best effort so far on the treadmill. Feeling much pleased with myself. And I hope that I can keep up with this exercise regime. Wish me luck as I continue.

P.S. At least right now, my weight is fluctuating between 68 kilogrammes and 70 kilogrammes, depending on the time of day. Still okay by my reckoning....

Monday, 3 November 2014

Jeremy's convocation

It's a ritual, an experience, that many parents go through, and my wife and I are not any different. When it comes to our children, we always agonise through their growing up years. If it is not about health and safety, it is about education. We always want the best education for our children, according to the best of our ability, so that in the future they have a strong foundation to fall back on. No matter what, parents will always want their children to have better lives for themselves than what we have now.

We endured the anxiety of seeing our daughter, Michelle, through college and then through university. Then, when she had graduated in 2009, it became the turn of our son, Jeremy, to go through the same process as his sister.

However, it was a greater challenge with Jeremy than it was with Michelle. Constantly, we had to offer him lots of encouragement to see him through both college and university. To his credit, it was smoother sailing through university and we were present, together with his grandparents, to see him graduate yesterday at the convocation ceremony.