July 31st, 2009
Belastingdienst, the Dutch tax service, sent a form for me to fill out in which I needed to indicate projected future earnings. They do this almost each year—well, regularly—so that they can let you pay your taxes for 2020 in 2019 instead of the more reasonable 2021. And every year I postpone filling out this form (deadline August 1) as long as possible, so that I can always include my latest earnings in the estimate.
That’s the pre-amble. When I checked the form yesterday, I noticed the tax service wanted me to fill out my projected earnings for last year, 2008. I received this form at the end of May, two full months after I had reported them my income for 2008 (the cut-off date for which is April 1 in the Netherlands). More than a year after they had charged me income taxes over 2008 based on their own estimates. And two full days after they had corrected my income tax over 2008, presumably based on my April report.
In other words, have I just gone mad or is the tax service not quite right in the head? What am I missing here?
(I returned the form with the box checked that says they already know my income over 2008, which should be sufficient.)
July 27th, 2009
My friend Natasha pointed me to an article in De Pers about people working 80 hour work weeks in the Netherlands, rare creatures indeed. Fortunately, she also pointed out that it is apparently a slow news day. The author had interviewed five or so people and the article consists mainly of their words, which is a nice job if you can get it. It almost made me feel sorry I once quit journalism.
I have a problem with people in intellectual jobs claiming to work 80 hour work weeks, and it is this:
The actual amount of work done seems to be overshadowed by large swaths of posturing. I’d say:
- Actual work, 37.5 %
- Harassing co-workers with mindless meetings and micro-managing, 10 %
- Being at the office, going through the motions, 27.5 %
- Being at home, being available and reading documentation, 25 %
I know these 80 hour work weekers. It’s not that they don’t work hard. I am an entrepreneur, so I put in a fair share of hours myself. I have customers who call me at 10 at night on a Saturday evening, expecting me to drop everything to listen to problems that would easily survive the weekend even if nobody did anything—and some of whom would be irked if I billed them for that time. The thing is, being available all the time, not really having your own time, that sort of gets to you. There is rest and there is rest. I can well imagine that people in similar roles want some appreciation for what they do. But it’s not work.
The Polish guy who came to the Netherlands to put in your second bath room that you are paying for with your 80 billable hours per week, now he is actually working 80 hours a week.
One of my biggest fears is getting in an accident, because I don’t want to be operated on by the sort of goofball who thinks putting in 80 hours in the operating room makes him a hero. Give me a fresh and relaxed surgeon any day.
July 18th, 2009
When I was still in bed in the morning and not quite ready to get up, I was listening to Eddie Izzard’s Definite Article on my audio player, and apparently I had dozed off, because at one point I was sitting in a living room on a fairly high rug or carpet, wedged between a couch and a flat screen TV with the BBC on. And I was laughing about the show on my headset, which must have been not at all compatible with what was going on on the TV. And I was feeling slightly guilty about that, because it seemed a little a-social, to be watching a program with somebody and then actually be listening to something else.
But she must not have minded very much, because she did not say anything about it. Instead, her foot moved slowly closer and closer to my face, until it brushed me, as if accidentally, which gave me the impression that she wasn’t very much interested in the television either, but wanted to play.
Except that in that half-wake, half-dream state you do somewhat realize what is real and what is not, so I decided to keep listening to Eddie Izzard, which sort of chilled things between me and my dream date.
Before that I had actually woken up around six, which was a bit early for my taste, so I decided to stay in bed and had all kinds of intermittent dreams. One was the famous naked-in-public dream, though I was saved by two things. One, I got to keep my underwear on (thank you subconscious!), and two, the guy next to me started stripping and jumped in the water, which signaled to me that it apparently was OK to sit there barely clad. Even if it was at the tram stop.