It’s Been A Few Months

There is so much to say, yet I am not quite sure where to begin.

So I have a son. Finley Tsai Macdougall. We meant to use his Chinese first name as his Anglo middle name, but we didn’t like how the Chinese names translated to English. So we used my Chinese last name instead. This is our contribution to keeping a part of my Chinese heritage. Finn is also part of the Tsai family now.

But what is the Tsai family, really? Our family is now at its most fractured. Physical distance was really the only thing that held us together. Love? Companionship? Turns out distance took away all those things for us. Whose fault was it? Which parent was responsible? I guess it’s never a single person’s fault. I know that now. A marriage works only if all parties involved work at it. A marriage fails as well because all parties involved have given up.

Off on a tangent. I have to get all this out before Finn wakes up again. That’s my life now–my days revolve around Finn. Feeding Finn. Soothing Finn. Changing Finn. Bathing Finn. Staring at Finn. I have so much love for this little boy–more love than I ever thought humanly possible. I can’t stand to watch movies or read books in which a parent loses a child. It hurts too much.

Life on the farm is good. It’s wonderful, really. I have to dedicate another entry entirely to it later.

This entry today is about the use of this site. I pay an annual fee for this domain, yet I barely get any use out of it. It’s my own fault. I neglect this place. I have too many places for my thoughts and feelings. I keep a written journal; I have an on-going “letter to my offspring” thing happening. I talk to Jamie. I talk to my family. I talk to Michelle. There are too many places for me to deposit my thoughts.

Thoughts, once off-loaded, are no longer trapped in my head and there is no longer the need to discard them here.

It is now a couple of hours later. Finn woke up and needed to be changed, then fed, and then put back down again. Rohan adjusted my lower back so now it feels much better.

I have a plan. I plan to write here more often, but starting with at least once a week.

So… until next week!

Been A While

Currently writing from a remote farm in Western Australia. We managed to get internet here thanks to my current job at a digital advertising firm. They were willing to pay for the monthly internet fees in exchange for having me work remotely. This contract will last until the end of February.

I am also currently 5 months pregnant. ūüôā

Starting Over

Not going to lie, I’m pretty scared of how this will actually turn out.

I have just scrapped a writing project I’d been working on for four years (how did it take that long??) and started it over because it would work better as a modern story rather than a fantasy.

I realised that there were so many themes at play in the project that keeping it as a fantasy story was actually distracting from the theme. I wanted to tell a more relatable¬†story and having “ye old time” dialogue just simply wasn’t doing it for me.

It’s scary to scrap it at this point because I’d had already gone so far (over 200,000 words!) into the plot. Although the last 100,000 so words of it was pretty much garbage because I had been hating the story while still forcing myself to work on it.

So far I am enjoying the new start. Whether it’s just the excitement from working on a “new” project or actually having something that works is still hard to tell. But hopefully it’s the latter.


Deer In Headlines

That’s how I feel right now. My decision to quit my job without having a new job was made abruptly, and I don’t regret it. But I still can’t stop myself from feeling the terror of unemployment.

How will I take care of myself?

Sure, I have a family, a husband who loves me and supports me in my decisions. I have a roof over my head and food to eat.

But what if I didn’t have any of those things? What if those things suddenly disappeared tomorrow? Then what would I do and where would I be? It feels strange to know that I am¬†this close to homelessness.

Well. I did leave my job with some savings. I wasn’t totally crazy. I also do have some prospects I am trying to look into. But the terrifying thought of being¬†unproductive as a citizen of the world simply does not go away.

Unproductive. What a word. The very idea that I am not turning today’s 8 hours worth of work into money that would then sustain me as me being¬†unproductive… how did it come to this? When did we begin weighing our value in work and money?

Whatever happened to doing the work because we enjoyed it? Whatever happened to just having enough to live on and actually living our lives?

My father’s CEO voice in my head is asking me, “how dare you pull out of the Rat Race at merely 31 years old? Get back in there and keep going!”

It felt strange today not to commute to work in the morning to work. Not to sit down at a desk I’d been sitting at for five months (five months! was it really only that long?) and clearing tickets.

Tickets. A word to summarize the endless demands from people who supposedly pay our bills. I got used to measuring my days based on how many tickets we closed. In this last job, I became jaded. I didn’t bother getting to know the clients. I knew none of them. Their names and the names of their companies all blended into one giant demanding monster. All of the requests were the same; their website looked ugly. The site went down. They broke another page trying to edit it.

Meanwhile in other parts of the world, people are actually dying. They are being bombed and people are losing loved ones here and there. Real human suffering is taking place all of the time while people over here worry about how their website looks and how much business and money they’ve lost because the color of their navigation menu is not the same green they originally wanted.

How did we get here?

Allowing Your Clients to Drive Your Product

From my years working with SaaS platforms, I have noticed one common trend; the danger of Software as a Service to slowly become Software as a Slave.

At the rate that technology is advancing, the public is generally under the assumption that there is nothing that code cannot do. While that may be true, clients and owners alike should understand that in programming and software development, like astronomy, is an on-going science.

This means that while the limits of what we can do with software is unlimited; much of it may still be unknown. There are consistently new programming languages developed, for example, the recent emergence of Sass, or Syntactically Awesome Stylesheets, saw a great improvement in webpage load speed.

So why is it important for those running a SaaS company to be aware of the common misconceptions of what technology can do?

Software as a Service is generally set up as a pay per use product. This means that your business is no longer just about signing up an account and getting that one time (or maybe two payments) squared away after project goes live; Software as a Service is about maintaining an on-going relationship with your clients and being “open” to their requests and needs.

This means that as a salesperson or an account manager at a SaaS company with a global platform, your job is to¬†set your client’s expectations of the CURRENT limits of technology. To your clients, YOU are the expert. While you may come across high maintenance clients who think that you have computer wizards up your sleeve who can deliver anything they could possibly want, it is still your job to educate these clients on what is currently possible and what is not.

In my time working with SaaS companies, always in Projects or Support presence, I have seen account managers or sales being talked into promising features and functions that cannot be deliverable within the time frame given. As a result, the company as a whole receives the reputation of a company that cannot deliver quality on-going service.

At that certain point, the company has to make a choice and change their business model to letting development drive improvement rather than relying solely on client requests. At that time it would benefit the business to invest in Research in technical advancements so that the company is advancing its technologies on its own without relying on client prompts.

After all, it is better to have a service ready before clients even hear about it rather than to have your clients tell you they want something that you don’t already have. It is also better for the growth of your company to rely on internal structure rather than solely on customer needs.

Impulse Buy = Shopaholic?

Am I a shopaholic?

According to some online tests, I may be.

I had an uncomfortable argument with the TubHubs this morning about discretionary spending and how I am prone to impulse buy.

Impulse Buying is a habit I admit to. It was always easy to cop to because I can just say, “at least I’m not in debt”.

Not being in debt is not the same as having substantial savings, though. 

When I was still in school, it was easy to blame the lack of savings on tuition and student loans. I was one of the biggest whiners about how expensive tuition was and how my education was the ONLY REASON I didn’t have any money left over.

After student loans were paid off a couple years ago, I told myself that I’ll need to start seriously saving. I was able to keep the ‘rainy-day fund’ going, but beyond that I didn’t make much head way. The excuse I made then was that I couldn’t possibly save large sums of money because of the wage cuts I took. In reality, it was because I was spending frivolously.

While I did realise the problem a while ago, I never really seriously looked at how to curb my impulse buy habit. Now that I have no distractions, I forced myself to spend some time researching theories and ideas behind shopping addiction.


Shopping Addiction Symptoms, Causes, and Effects¬†–¬†Seriously, this article actually exists. There are¬†actually drugs¬†that you can take in order to curb your impulses (it’s the same drug they prescribe for Alzheimers).

Though, based on the list provided there of “Are you a shopaholic?”, I don’t really compare. I don’t have financial hardship, and I don’t feel a ‘euphoric rushes or anxiety’ when I’m shopping.

That article annoyed me more than I thought it would. It felt like another way for drug companies to tell you that you need drugs to curb your behavior. I need behavior tools, not mental state altering chemicals.

After some more research, I found this blog: The Simple Dollar. There is an article there listing 10 tools to help you prevent impulse buying. It seems like something that was more doable.

Tool number 6 really caught my eye.

6. Calculate the value in life energy

If you’ve been a reader of The Simple Dollar for long, you know about how to calculate your true hourly wage. Keep that number handy, and the next time you want to buy something, divide the price of the item by your true hourly wage … this will tell you how many hours of your life you had to give up to buy that item. Sometimes the number of hours can be eye-opening, especially for more expensive items. Consider whether you really want to give up that much of your life for that item.

Then I went on to read about the “true hourly wage” he mentioned. I went through and made a spreadsheet to calculate my actually hourly wage.

To get your actual hourly wage, you take your annual salary, deduct tax, then deduct any expenses related to work such as childcare, lunch, commute, etc. Then you take that annual number and divide it by the actual hours you are working through the year. 

Here is the assumption I had (and probably most people had) based on googling annual salary to hourly:

The average, full-time, salaried employee works 40 hours a week. Based on this, the average salaried person works 2,080 (40 x 52) hours a year. To determine your hourly wage, divide your annual salary by 2,080. If you make$75,000 a year, your hourly wage is$75,000/2080, or $36.06.

So making 75 grand is pretty great, right? …. NOT.

When I plug in 75,000 as the annual salary into the spreadsheet I made, here is what I got:


Notice that my Work deductions are LOW.¬†I don’t have childcare, and I have a cheap commute (transit). I included clothing/vanity for office appropriate clothing (that I otherwise would never buy) and make up (that I otherwise would not need to wear). My tax deductions are based on the Australian income tax rate.

Still, my actual hourly income on $75,000/year is really only $22-23/hour.

So I sat here and let that sink in for a bit. When I consider that I’m only making around $20 an hour, that¬†really puts a damper on¬†impulse shopping. Now instead of just thinking about what I can afford, I should be thinking about what I can afford¬†after savings.

There are other great tips in this article, but number 6 caught my eye as it speaks directly to how I think.

Thanks,¬†The Simple Dollar. I’m now a little bit more money-savvy. I hope.


It’s now less than two weeks before we leave.

Over the past weekend, we’ve packed all our things in the shipping crate. Then we squeezed the rest of our portable things together into 4 large suitcases and 1 carry-on.

The house we lived in the for the past three years is now empty. It already feels like someone else’s home.

I was saying to Jamie earlier this morning–the more empty the house becomes, the more displaced I feel.

I am terrified. I foolishly believed I had grown up, that this childish fear of rootlessness had been conquered when I first moved to USA. I was wrong. Moving to USA from Canada isn’t really¬†moving. You’re still on the same continent. You can still travel between USA and Canada on your own two feet if you really wanted to go home desperately. If there was a end-of-the-world apocalypse, I could get to Canada without a plane.

Moving to Australia from here… I can’t come back easily. I can’t just jump into the ocean and end up back home. Of course practically I can fly back to Canada, but really, how often are you going to go home if you have to make such a long trip?

The mature side of me would argue that Jamie is my ‘home’ now. Selfishly, I need more than that. I need more than a person. People can leave you, but¬†stuff can’t.¬†Things can’t just get up on their own, decide you’re not good enough, and walk out of your life.

It’s ridiculous to feel this way. I know the Hows and Whys. Fear of displacement, abandonment–all common things to suffer from when one is the product of a dysfunctional family.

I even have the tools (writing about it is one of them) I need to help me stop feeling this way. I know how to talk myself down, I know how to remind myself that I’m an adult and that childish fears and resentments don’t dictate my life now.

I guess knowing how to fix something doesn’t make me stop¬†hating the idea that I need repairs to begin with. The knowledge that I will always feel like this is frustrating. Yes, it’d be the adult thing to do to learn and accept our short-comings and lots in life–but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.