My 2012

2012 has been a busy year for me:

  1. My second son was born,
  2. My grandmother died,
  3. I discovered that I do have will power,
  4. My backyard was rebuilt, and
  5. I started to get interested in the StartUp space.

Son #2

My second son, wrapped up whilst in hospital

K was born in the usual way. From the outset, he was an easier baby to care for – partly because it’s our second time around, so we know what to expect and what to do. I think it is also his personality – he seems easier going and a better sleeper.

He has grown tremendously: he now has two teeth, is able to push himself to a sitting position and can commando crawl. He is a very smiley baby, likes a good tickle and laughs a lot.

He is so cute that I wistfully wish that he would stay the same forever. Then I think about having to change his poopy nappy and reconsider.

Son #1

A has grown up quite a bit this year (I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that kids do this).

One major accomplishment we had is that I thought him how to read – well at least the book “The Little Red Hen”. The word he knows and recognises best is “the”. Most other words are hit and miss. Still it is progress.

His handwriting is also coming along nicely – he is writing more lower case letters now – but still struggles to write within the lines.

We had him enrolled in three extracurricular programmes:

  1. Swimming at SwimWest,
  2. Music at UWA, and
  3. Chinese School at Perth Chinese School.

Sometimes I wonder that we are the typical Asian “kiasu” parents by packing in so many activities for such a young tacker. Here is my justification for so many classes:

  • Swimming: for physical excercise and safety around water,
  • Music: to aid his confidence and further his communication (he was a late bloomer in terms of speech), and
  • Chinese School: Mandarin is his heritage and unfortunately, neither my wife nor I speak it fluently. China is also predicted to be the next world superpower and I think it is prudent for A to learn the language to maximise his chance of success in the world he will encounter.

Having said that, the wife and I always find it a relief when it is school holidays and the latter two activities stop. It frees our weekends for other activities – or at least frees us to do things at our leisure instead of according to school schedules.

A enjoys swimming but less so music. He is still shy but his music teacher said she had noticed him coming out of his shell by the end of the year. Chinese school he likes even less and it is always a struggle to get him to go to it.

My brother-in-law said he was offered opportunities to for tuition (music, etc) when he was young but was always more interested in playing. His parents didn’t force him to go but he now regrets not being musically inclined. So, I hope that A will someday thank me for making him go to Chinese school.

Rest in peace, Grandma Lily

My beautiful grandmother

Rest in peace, dear grandmother

I lost my last surviving grandmother in June this year. She was a tough woman, who brought up eight children almost all by herself. She was an example to me and was a major force is keeping my mother’s side of the family together – she was the glue.

She looked after me from an early age and I saw her a lot as I grew up. The only times when I didn’t was when I was living outside KL (and she lived in KL) or when she had migrated to Perth, Australia.

When I had migrated to Perth, I remember how she cook for the whole extended family most Sundays. All twenty of us would cram into her small unit in Dianella and would have a good time catching up with each other.

Over the past decade, grandma’s health had deteriorated. For the past 3 years, she had been living in a nursing home in Balcatta.

I am eternally grateful that she saw my two sons, although her time with K was very short. One of the most touching things is that she said that seeing Aidan always brought joy to her heart. I hung several photos of Aidan in her room and she said that seeing him brings a smile to her face.

One thing I regret was not having said goodbye to her. I knew that her time was short but I  could never bring myself to saying goodbye.

The week before she died, she actually told my Aunty S that she was dying. I guess that she could feel it in her bones. In her moments of depresssion, grandma had sometimes told her kids that she wants to die several times over the years. So my aunty thought it was just the usual grumblings. But within the week grandma had passed.

One of the saddest things is that she died without family beside her. I was told that in the morning, she had complained of pain (she had been in pain for the past month) and she passed as the in-home doctor was examining her.

Grandma, wherever you are, know that you are not forgotten. You are loved and I miss you terribly.


This year I photographed three major events:

Dr Wong examining C just before K's deliver.

K’s birth

A good friend's wedding

A good friend’s wedding

Grieving uncle laying a rose on grandma's casket

Grandma Lily’s funeral.

I guess 2013 encapsulated the circle of life. I started reading “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitchell Albom, which reinforced how precious time is and how important it is to life a good life. There are bad habits I need to break to make sure I use my remaining time better.

Weight loss

Another factor that prompted positive change in my life was that I loss a whole heap of weight – 15kg, which represented a 15% loss of my body mass. Hopefully, this will buy me a more time to spend with my loved ones.

I haven’t been so light since, probably, my teenage years. It has been a difficult process to go through, especially since I enjoy (over)eating so much. But when the Dr Patricia Nyuang handed me a packet of high-blood pressure pills in March, I knew I didn’t want to resort to drugs.

I knew something had to be done – medicine for life was only a stop-gap measure. I had to lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off.

My sister- and brother-in-law had been on the Dukan Diet and it had worked very well for them. Ditto a colleague. So I hopped on this high protein, low carb diet in March.

At first, as with any major adjustment in lifestyle, the going was tough. The first week consisted of pure protein – no carbs and no vegies, both of which I loved. To add insult to injury, the diet prescribed consumption of oat bran – which at first tasted like pulverised cardboard to me.

Halfway to my target weight of 83.5kgs, whilst walking down a corridor at work, I realised that I was walking with greater ease. This helped reinforce that the weight loss was happenning and that it would be ultimately worth the pain.

In August, I reached my target weight. I had lost the equivalent of my 4 year old son – who was 15kgs. Imagine carrying his 4 year old body around with me all the time!

Sadly, it comes into the phase of the diet where I try to maintain the target weight. Thus far, I have not been doing so well. Between visiting Malaysia for a family holiday and Christmas, my weight has gone up and it has been very difficult to get it back down.

I find it much easier to maintain the weight during the work week but come weekend or holidays, I overeat (including lots of carbs and sweets) and put the weight back on.

As I write this, my weight is 85.7kgs. Much better than my starting point of 100kgs but still I need to be vigilant.

The major lesson I learned from this weight loss is that I do have willpower.

Startup: The beginning of my journey

I have not been the happiest with my job. Most days I feel like I am spinning my wheels, not accomplishing anything significant.

So, I have been exploring the Startup space by attending Morning Startup and Startup Weekend. The former, I go when I can make it and the latter I attended in September. It was an intense and educational experience which I enjoyed.

Unfortunately, Team Pivot, who set out to build a machine to predict the future ended up building fashion app, which we later found out, had already been built. Nothing concrete came out of it.

It might be a matter of fortunate timing that Claire Robertson and Dash Dhakshinamoorthy started a Perth chapter for the Founders Institute. FI was started by Adeo Ressi and has the mission to globalise the Silicon Valley ecosystem. It does that by having a four month educational programme where students are mentored on how to make a startup company.

I applied, thinking that my chances are low and that at best, I would get feedback on how psychologically inclined I am towards being an entrepreneur.

The application process consisted on two steps:

  1. Application form, including link to LinkedIn profile and statements on:
  2. description of something the applicant is passionate about,
  3. motivations on why the applicant wants to participate in a startup, and
  4. Admission test, which was psychometric testing and had a heavy emphasis on pattern recognition and a bit on ranking actions and likes/dislikes that would reveal a person’s character.

I wrote that I was passionate about the environment and how I acted upon this (growing own food, solar panels, etc). My motivation was that I had enough of being an employee and wanted to chart my own destiny. My application was enough to get me through to Step 2: the Admission test.

The pattern recognition portion of the Admission test was tough – there were some patterns which I just took a punt on but the majority I think I answered correctly after sitting and staring at them for a while.

I guess I did well enough on the test and FI (based on their algorithm) reckons I have enough of the personal traits of an entrepreneur that I have been offered a position in their first Perth semester.

To a certain degree, I still lack self-confidence, doubting whether I do have what it takes to be successful in this endeavour. I am not very well connected (despite having a hundred+ connections on LinkedIn), I don’t have a world-changing idea for the startup and I am naieve when it comes to the business world.

I talked to my wife about whether I should join (I had fully expected not to pass the Admission test – and only wanted feedback on where I was psychologically). She told me “Give it a go – if you don’t you will wonder ‘What if…?’ for the rest of your life.”

I know that I don’t have to join FI to start a startup but it does give me the best chance of making it successful from the get-go. Wise woman, my wife.

The semester starts at the end of February and ends in early June 2013. Here I go, wish me luck!


The backyard was a mess – the lawn was half-dead (due to improper care and dog pee). The other plants were struggling – probably due to the same issues. So I ripped the whole garden out and started almost from new. The only three trees that were retained were a peppermint gum (provides shade in summer), a lemon tree (has edible fruit) and a bay leaf tree (leaves can be used in cooking).

The “garden” at the side of the house was also demolished (besides the currey leaf tree) and restarted again.

A friend had shown me a source of free manure – the stables of Belmont. So, I got two trailer loads to spread on my garden beds. Not the most pleasant of tasks but the sand needed a lot of amending.

The philosophy of the garden makeover was to have minimal maintenance whilst providing food for the family.

Artificial lawn was installed – to give the kids some open space to play on whilst solving the problem of lawn maintenance. I am quite happy with the results – it looks good and has not needed any maintenance (besides the occassional sweep and regular doggy doo removal).

As for the second part of the equation – providing food for the family, well that doesn’t quite gel with “low maintenance”. I will write a separate post about my forays into the world of growing my own vegies.

Well, that is recap of the major things in 2012. Given the frequency of my blog posts, check in for my recap of 2013 (though I honestly hope that there will be more posts in between).

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In the beginning…

I procrastinated.

Then procrastinated some more.

It was useful – thoughts were formed, tossed around in the streambed of my head, being polished somewhat.

You see, I’ve been wanting to start a blog to record and hopefully organise my thoughts.

So what will this blog contain? Mostly thoughts I’ve had, things I’ve done and other musings. There will be no focus, no specialty.

This blog is about my life and thoughts. You are welcome to comment and perhaps help me make my way through this thing called life.

Photo of my feet

I suppose I should tell you a little about myself.

My name is Alfred Low, born in Malaysia and live in Perth, Australia. I work in elearning and am a father of (currently) one. I like thinking. Sometimes I do it too much, sometimes not enough.

The stuff between my ears used to make strange connections and leaps. But that was in the past – now I am usually too tired or pre-occupied for my brain to do more than cope with daily life.

Hopefully, this blog will bring some order to chaos and sharpen my mind.

You are welcome to join me in my ramblings – which hopefully will be entertaining.

Posted in Philosophy, Thoughts | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments